“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.” – Willie Nelson
Hey fellow blondies and my other blackies and brownies…?
Last, we spoke, we began our discussion on the practice of Inspiring a Shared Vision. We started by discussing the beauty of embracing our pasts and existing beyond the realms of our real. This action empowers the strengths that overcame our past mistakes. Rather than allowing our mistakes to define us, we focused on allowing our strengths to speak to who we are. We also briefly touched on our ability as the humankind to foresee possible outcomes in our lives and act in accordance with the goals such outcomes inspire. Today, we are diving deeper into how that sense of future can intrinsically motivate our present. So, let’s dive.
For those who have been following along with these posts, you are well-aware that I have fully admitted being a leader “in progress.” While I have certain skills and strengths that have helped enable me to succeed in leadership to the point I find myself today, there are still many qualities and practices of leadership that I have yet to achieve. Of these qualities and practices, the power of envisioning the future is one with which I still struggle. I may have completed the classes that were to educate me on this practice and I may have the concept locked away in my brain thanks to flashcard memorization; however, the acceptance of such truth has yet to catch up.
If you are like me, you know there is a difference in knowing something to be true and feeling something to be true. Sometimes your mind refuses to accept the scientific logic when your emotions are pulling those thoughts in a different direction. This whole concept of envisioning a future had yet to catch my feels.
In case you haven’t noticed or don’t believe in calendars, it’s been a month since my last post. This brief sabbatical, if you will, wasn’t actually intentional until after the second week of missed blogging. Those first two weeks I simply had no idea what direction I wanted to take this post. Like I stated earlier, how could I have anything to say about positively prospecting the future when I didn’t personally feel the worth in remaining positive about envisioning what has yet to come in my own life?
Day after day I would open my draft and stare at the mere 100 words I had been able to muster up for my introduction. And nothing. Nothing in me sparked about what to write next. Nothing in me sparked excitement about delivering another post to a blog I thought I had been anxiously waiting to succeed with for years but suddenly feel as though I’ve failed on. I stared at those 100 words or so and just felt nothing.
Soon enough, two weeks turned into four and a lack of direction soon became good friends with a lack of motivation. After two weeks, no one had noticed my absence, or at least hadn’t mentioned it. And that’s when my sabbatical became intentional. Why should I put my time and effort into something that no one could give a rat’s you-know-what about? I don’t pop out these posts like the Duggar’s pop out children. Writing is a tedious process for me and nothing discourages that process more than the thought of knowing it wasn’t worth the effort in the first place.
(I know this is super uplifting, you are welcome).
So, to summarize this cycle of thoughts, I just couldn’t even and, frankly, I had no desire to odd either. I had decided my blog was not worth the hours I put into it every week nor was it worth a sense of depressing reality that the only person benefiting from those hours was myself.
I had officially shut down.
What once had been an exciting possibility for me to inspire my vision was soon just a stupid idea.
Continuing my sabbatical appeared as the only logical action from that point forward and that was the action I so took. I had no clue what the future of my blog was to look like and I definitely didn’t hold a positive mindset when I tried to envision it either. I was to be writing a post about this amazing quality of leaders to be confident for what lies ahead, yet, all I saw lying ahead of me was disappointment in myself.
But, alas, the tides turned and I realized the time I was spending in my sabbatical was writing this post all along.
Which brings us here, the official post-sabbatical post. Conveniently, my looming mental state from the previous 30 days sparked how I want to go about this topic of an intrinsically motivating future. If we’re going to speak scientifically here, these days definitely still sucked. But, they’ve reminded me something that I would have never remembered to accept had I not experienced them: life can suck, and probably will on occasion, but that’s okay.
(yes, I used every font style on that because I’m really emphasizing it).
When we’re in those moments of suckness, it’s how we envision how we will better ourselves on the other side that power us through. It’s allowing yourself to embrace positivity while experiencing struggle. Good things in life aren’t always going to come easy and we must work at them. And persistently working at them is holding true to an intrinsically motivating future.
Growing up and to this day, I have been a little hard on myself. And people who know me on the realest of real levels are scoffing right now because, full disclosure, I am extremely hard myself. From academics to physical appearance to fitness, I have never been proud or confident in my skills and abilities. I hold on to this belief that one day I will finally reach my expectations, when truthfully, the closer I get to such expectations, the higher I raise them. It’s a cycle that has me striving for a future in which I am only continually hoping for more, for better, for something that will never be enough.
This mindset has harnessed my ability to prospect a positive future. To me, the future has just been another chance to let others and myself down. So, why bother inspiring a vision?
Thankfully, I can now be confident about one thing though: that mindset is beyond draining and doesn’t benefit any aspect of my life.
You know when you were a kid and your elementary teacher was trying to teach you the importance of happiness? And they used the illustration that it takes 43 muscles to frown but only 17 to smile? Now, when I was fact-checking this childhood life lesson, apparently there is some ongoing discrepancy whether these figures are accurate (scientists really need a better hobby); however, the point that was being stressed at a young age was that it takes less effort to smile than frown. It’s easier to project happiness than gloom. I think it’s safe to say the same concept can be applied to embracing positivity through struggle.
As I was researching the validity of the smile v. frown illustration, I came across a website of a British organization that develops scientific educational materials and presents scientific articles and media. One of their posts discussed this discrepancy. Within it, they noted an interesting point that I found to tie this concept together in a beautifully prepared package. Their scientists support the side of the discrepancy that claims smiling actually requires a greater number of muscles; however, they went on to say that, because humans tend to smile more than they frown, these muscles are stronger, thus require less effort to engage.
And the ball was freaking knocked out of the park, here, ladies and gentlemen.
Embracing positivity through struggle to foresee a better future may not always be the easier action in the matter, BUT, when you are intentional about using this mindset, it, too, will require less effort to engage because you have strengthened its ability.
Sorry, let me stress that one more time. When you are intentional in embracing positivity, you are empowering your ability to foresee positivity.
As I was cruising through my sabbatical, each passing week in which I chose to prospect only negatives for what was to become of my blog and its worth, I was empowering negativity. I was allowing that to be the mindset that required less effort to engage and fulfilling my belief that I would never be good enough. I was giving up and, by God, I am never a quitter. I was taking being hard on myself to a whole new level.
The moment I realized the actions I have been taking these past four weeks are not the actions that will progress me in life nor provide me intrinsic motivation for my future, I decided to turn with the tides. I decided to open my draft once more and finish what I set out to deliver upon. Was finishing this post easy? No, it definitely had some qualities of suckness to it. But that’s okay. Because this time around, I could envision how finishing this post was going to better myself. I chose to prospect a positive outcome and engage in the intentionality to act with a better mindset.
So, leadership. We know it always circles back to leadership. Per the same research I referenced in Antagonist Sea Witches, an overwhelming majority of the 100,000 participants in a survey conducted by Kouzes and Posner attested that “turning exciting possibilities into an inspiring shared vision” is one of the most valuable responsibilities of leaders. This quality motivates leaders to strive for something that is greater than themselves. It inspires a future that is worth the challenges and the efforts of holding such a position.
This responsibility affects the motivational levels of those way beyond just that of the leader. When followers see a positive force envisioning a bright future, that force is contagious. Just like smiling, when you witness others doing it, it becomes easier for you to do yourself. As leaders grow stronger in their ability to embrace positivity, they’re helping those around them to grow stronger, too. This construct of a team encourages everyone to act in accordance with the goals such outcomes inspire.
Which brings us here, the conclusion of a post that has witnessed a month of struggling. After finalizing my last thoughts, I can be confident in saying my present is now better motivated by a hopeful look to my future and not giving up in these moments of struggle. Would I say I’m now an expert in leadership and this breakthrough has completed my journey? Oh, HELL no. But, this breakthrough has allowed me to accept that the power of envisioning the future is a concept I know is true and one I feel is true. And that is worth the effort of continuing my blog.
So, this is the blonde embracing positivity. And a brief, little sabbatical in-between.