I had an easy childhood, growing up in suburbia at a time when suburbia was the ultimate setting for a middle class family. My Dad, like many fathers in our neighborhood, commuted into NYC on the Erie Lackawanna, leaving the house before anyone was up, and getting home at 5:30pm almost every evening. He made a good living and was, in my mind, the ultimate provider. I have no recollection of ever going without any of the basics. I’d call it comfortable.
Most of the Moms stayed at home (remember those days?) and took care of the day-to-day. My Mom was an evangelist for positive thinking; a walking inspirational quote. “If you think you can, you can!” “Smile and the whole world smiles with you”. “Don’t forget to count your blessings!” “Money doesn’t buy happiness”. “Look at the glass half full!” There were more where those came from. She didn’t always practice what she preached, but her intentions were good.
As we all know there’s a fine line between staying positive and “looking at the world through rose-colored glasses”. My family never spent much time talking about the negative stuff. I grew up believing everything would be fine if I focused on the positive and my Mom (especially) swept the negative stuff under the rug. My parents did the best they could. They instilled in us noble, humble values. Positivity never lost its perch at the top of the list. For a long time I blamed them for not talking about the negative. I felt like it left me ill-prepared for the real world. However, I couldn’t be more thankful their focus on positivity.
I’ve been a self-help junkie for most of my adult life. Most of what I’ve read revolved around life’s bottom line – HAPPINESS. It started when I was a neophyte in business. I was so naïve back then. I thought I’d naturally figure things out and was shocked when I realized not everyone had the same view the world as me!
That little voice in my head had always been with me, it was a whisper, until I stepped out into the real world. In my formative years that voice was on a pretty even keel, but as the years went on, it became louder, more critical and more negative. For years I was under the impression I couldn’t do anything about it. I felt like most people do – I am who I am. My mind and my brain were what they were and trying to change any of it was virtually impossible.
Throughout most of my career I had to deal with that little SOB, constantly harassing me about this, that, and the other thing. Sometimes it would be especially boisterous, cruel, and critical. It called me names, told me I was a failure, and it had the audacity to undermine my positive thoughts.
It was especially loud and obnoxious when I’d get up in the morning, expressing disappointment in my lack of achievement the day before. I used vigorous physical exercise in the morning to defend myself — it worked, but the results were temporary. I got into reading self-help books (never finished one) but was able to get the gist of each after the first few chapters. I attended seminars featuring motivational speakers, like Zig Ziglar and others whose names escape me. I even attended a class on “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, the philosophy made famous by Dale Carnegie. And NO, he didn’t teach the class – He died when I was still in diapers (1955). These short stints proved to be beneficial but never solved the problem I was having with that little voice in my head.
Now before anyone draws the wrong conclusions, I was relatively happy most of those years. I had my family and friends, who I knew loved me unconditionally. I enjoyed a fair amount of success in my career, I have two incredible sons that continue love me and I think like it when I’m around. I’m so fortunate to have experienced good health throughout the journey. Things are good now, but that obnoxious little Chatty Charlie is still with me. The difference now, is I’ve become much better at managing it.
What allowed me to get the upper hand? SCIENCE! I’ve read 35 books over the last couple of years (more than a couple chapters per book). These books are different than the ones I read early in my career. Back then the authors wrote about their philosophies and they were 98% opinion and 2% mother-in-law research. Now, I don’t think you can get published in the self-help category unless what you say is backed by research. When there’s tons of research done all over the world with mice, rats, cats, dogs, monkeys and all types of humans, they call it SCIENCE!
The scientific evidence convinced me that I could actually manage that yappy little voice, but it would take significant work and discipline. I learned about neuroplasticity and a human’s ability to change the way their mind and brain function. As I continued reading and exploring… quieting the mind, was becoming a recurring theme. Quite honestly, I shuttered at the thought of sitting down for 20 minutes and being alone with my thoughts. Now I’m an advocate and 100% committed to starting my days with a morning meditation. A drastic change for a serial extrovert and truly a difference-maker for me.
Don’t underestimate the power of that little voice. It will continue to ruin your day if you let it. It’s okay to listen to it, because, as much as I’ve blasted it in this article, it can be helpful at times. The key is to let go of its negative rhetoric (noise), and every single day feed your mind with a large helping of positivity!