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A Positive Spin

by Lucy Freedman

I am practicing the skill of shifting from negative to positive. After decades of learning models and participating in learning groups that offered the secrets of shifting from negative to positive, I am still a beginner. My inquiry: what gets me to WANT to shift from anger and fear to joy and learning? What choice do I have and what gets me to make it? I think I should be doing better at this after all these years of learning, and yet it is a continuing inquiry.

I believe we share the knowledge that life on the positive side is much more worth living than life in struggle. Today started off wonderfully. The sun was out, I had a great walk to the redwood grove near my house, I had time to myself and time to get some overdue tasks done. I felt grateful to live in a beautiful setting, to have wonderful work, to have loving friends and enjoyable adventures traveling in the world. Life was good.

Then my friend called and canceled plans to go to the movies. My email system wouldn't send messages and I had to re-send some at least ten times. A business associate complained that he didn't feel sufficiently included in a recent meeting that I led. And I started down the negative path.

In my moment of reflection, I realize my feelings are hurt. I wonder if I should change my friends or my job. I can think of no alternatives on the email situation: I am a disgruntled user; all solutions seem to generate more hassle rather than less. How can I resume my positive frame of mind about these situations?

I use some of the things I know: it helps to stop blaming factors outside my control. It really does help to start thinking about what I do want. And sure enough, it helps to acknowledge and express my feelings about the friend canceling plans, the business associate's complaint, and the email not working. Accepting the feelings allows me to let them go more easily.
Perhaps I need to give up on the hope (or expectation) that someday I will not have these moments on the downhill slope. Stop the self-criticism for sliding downhill.

This transition must take place many times for each of us in the course of a week. Someone said that our daily work is to transform grief into joy. I believe it is so.

At work, we can help each other either take things more to the negative, or shift to the positive. This is a choice each team member has to make. In Peter Kline's Ten Steps to A Learning Organization, Step One is to assess the current situation, to look at it as honestly and objectively as possible. Step Two is to put a positive spin on everything from then on - - not to ignore or discount, but to frame it positively. Of course, central to Syntax is the positive spin: what you do want rather than what you don't want -- aim, not blame. "Putting a positive spin" on things, or "shifting from blame to aim," are verb phrases: they are things we can do.

Shifting our language this way allows us to influence our reality and our mood, and opens new possibilities for satisfying results. So even while I express negative feelings, I want to frame them within a desired outcome. Making this shift is often a challenge because of the strong pull of "authentic" negative feelings. "Ain't it awful?" is a socially reinforced pastime.
Little by little, though, by speaking about what I do want, I seem to get more of what I want. Others say it's true for them too, and reminding each other helps. As Peter Kline pointed out, putting a positive spin on things helps the negative to be addressed more effectively. I know I believe in this; making it real may be the biggest challenge, no matter what the issue. How positive can I feel about the frustrating email situation? That's a personal challenge indeed!

Today I heard a wonderful speaker talk about being on the spiritual path. She suggested that we be aware of what we respond to in life, either because of strong attraction or because of strong repulsion. Either one is a clue about what we are here to do. Our strongest responses help us recognize what we care about the most. When I feel that I'm doing what I'm here to do, I am motivated to put a positive spin on things. Even on the "negative" feelings. Whether I find a higher spiritual purpose, or just want to be part of an effective, creative organization, having a reason to shift to the positive is helpful. Evidence that people work better in a positive frame makes this shift practical.

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