The 1 Thing You’re Not Doing But Should to Stay on Track

Amanda Jessop
by Amanda Jessop
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The 1 Thing You’re Not Doing But Should to Stay on Track

We often face challenging situations in our careers, health and relationships, and, a lot of the time, these circumstances are beyond our control. You may even believe in the saying, “When it rains, it pours.” Despite the fact that you may not be able to control the negative situations in your life, you can choose your attitude during these challenging times.

Most of the time we aren’t even aware of our attitude towards negative situations. Negative situations put our coping mechanisms and resilience to the test. Generally speaking, we tend to address a challenging situation by thinking about all of the negative things that have and will come of it. We become fixated with this negative thinking—almost paralyzed—and before you know, it we are on a path to depression.

But, there is a way to cope that will lead to positive thinking and improved psychological health.

Here is a quick exercise that will help open your mind and allow you to choose a positive attitude during challenging moments:

  • Think about a situation in your health, work or relationships that is, or was, particularly negative and challenging for you.
  • Once you’re focused on that, take a DEEP breath.
  • Now write down 10 positive things that could result, or did result, from this particular situation. You have to physically write down the list. Making a mental list will not have the same effect.

You have to be willing to let your mind be loose here. In the beginning, you might choose to be close-minded and think that there is nothing positive that could come out of your negative situation, but you have to be willing to let go of your mental resistance.

For example, let’s say that you experience an exercise-related injury that has you out of commission. The injury has halted your weight-loss progress, as the doctor ordered you to rest for four weeks. The start of your list of 10 positive things that could result or did result might look like this:

  1. The injury is not life threatening; I am alive and breathing.
  2. I have learned what caused my injury, and therefore can prevent it from happening again.
  3. I can share my experience with others so that they can prevent experiencing the same injury I did.
  4. Somebody was around when I injured myself.

Let’s use one more example to drive this concept home. Let’s say you had a goal of losing 20 pounds by a certain date, and you fell short of that goal by 10 pounds. The start of your list of 10 positive things that could result or did result might look like this:

  1. Even though I haven’t hit my goal yet, I have made big changes in my lifestyle/diet to lose weight. That was my biggest hurdle.
  2. I can feel and see the positive changes in my energy, clothes size and overall health.
  3. I’ve bought new clothes, as some of my old outfits are too big. This is in opportunity to redefine myself and try new things that I didn’t have the confidence to do before.
  4. I’ve had wonderful support and encouragement from my friends and family.

As you start this exercise, you may not see the immediate benefits of doing it. But by the end of it, your positive reflection of the situation will leave you feeling less negative and more positive. It’s almost as if you are pretending to be positive about the negative situation in the beginning, but by the end of the exercise, your mind will give in and start to believe that your list is 10 truly positive things.

A good way to reflect on something you have endured in your life is by writing or journaling. Writing always brings clarity. Clarity yields inner peace. This same exercise can be applied to any negative situation in any area of your life.

So, in the end, you have a choice: a choice to be negative and limited in your thinking by saying, “I will never get over this. Why me? I give up.” Or you can choose to move away from being part of the problem and move toward being part of the solution by exercising the freedom to choose your attitude.

I have found this exercise to be very useful in my life. Try it out and let me know what you think.

About the Author

Amanda Jessop
Amanda Jessop

Amanda Jessop is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and group aerobics instructor who specializes in injury prevention fitness. She runs her own personal training business, Channel Your Inner Athlete, and is devoted to educating people on how to exercise safely to meet their goals while minimizing the risk of injury. For fitness tips, workouts and motivation, visit her website, Facebook page or her YouTube channel.

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28 responses to “The 1 Thing You’re Not Doing But Should to Stay on Track”

  1. RangerYasmine says:

    Very thoughtful and useful article. Thanks!

  2. Janet says:

    i like this – turning negative into positive – great tip amanda!

  3. Mary Sabo says:

    Great article! I often use the phrase – act your way into thinking. Doing an exercise like this is SO incredibly powerful because if you continue to take the act to work through this “thought process” often enough your brain eventually catches up and you no longer have to “act through it” and it just happens! I love this! Nice work girl!

    • Amanda Jessop says:

      Your right Mary the brain is a tricky thing to conquer. It’s true when people say “you can be your worst enemy” sometimes. Got to keep up with the mental fitness too!

  4. Clay Jessop says:

    I really enjoyed the inspiring words, especially the part reflecting on the good parts you did during the goal process rather the deflecting on not completing a goal. This can be used not just for fitness but in everyday life.

  5. Nay says:

    This was very good timing for me to read this as I currently have stress headaches and other pains from stress. Going to try this tool. Thank you.

    • Amanda Jessop says:

      Great to hear Nay! Feeling pain can really cloud our thinking..so I commend you for being willing to try this. Let me know how it goes.

  6. Angela says:

    Love this but still struggling to find any positives in my situation. My mom has Stage IV Cancer and every day is a struggle for her. I know I need to focus on my health since it is one thing I CAN control now, but it’s hard when you just want to curl up in a corner :-/

    • Eva says:

      Sending my best wishes and love Angela, and good health to you and your family.
      As it’s so difficult to try to find positives when in the middle of situations in life like yours at this moment in time, one suggestion that I can offer is that illnesses can remind us of how precious and valuable our lives are – we’re made aware of the fact that nobody is here infinitely, and that can be positive in that we feel encouraged to appreciate everyone and everything in our lives even more. Feeling joy and love more intensely from interactions with family and friends, memories, and simple activities that show us we’re living can be a pure and beautiful by-product of the worst situations. Little flashes of sunlight are more noticeable when you’ve been delved into darkness, and I hope you get to experince as many flashes as possible <3 xx

  7. Debby says:

    trying hard to do that, but when teenager has not spoken to you for 126 days, it’s tough!

    • Amanda Jessop says:

      Debby- I know it’s hard to really open your especially when the circumstances are so negative..like in your instance. But you just need to dig deep. I don’t know you or the exact details..but maybe your list starts out like this…

      1-Even though you don’t have a great relationship with your son..you have many other healthy relationships with other family and friends. Your aren’t alone.

      2- even though this might cause you stress..you are alive healthy and able to wake up every day.

      I hope that helps 🙂

  8. Faith says:

    Very thoughtful advice!

  9. JoAnn says:

    Very good advice for turning around thoughts and gaining clarity, looking at the positive. I’m going to use some of these ideas with my patients to help them through their tough times. Thank you.

  10. Sarah says:

    Thanks I needed this reminder. Will be helpful blew out my knee in December and was just being optimistic when it buckled hard yesterday. Sigh. So facing surgery and needing to lose weight. I am so glad to see articles such as this. They do help

  11. Anna says:

    Thank you for this article. I have started to conquer my weight. It’s been difficult. More difficult then previous time. And, I have more weight to loose then before. I’ve lost 5lbs. Its not much when you have another 45 to go. But I am happy to start. Thank you for the inspirational words.

    • Amazon 60 says:

      Anna 5lbs is ten percent of goal! Good kickoff girl. Take out the word difficult and inspire yourself with the word “Adventure” and remember every 5 lbs is a ten percent win win, so much more manageable and increments to learn and get to know Anna on her adventures. Be brave and be beautiful….

  12. Angela Ruth says:

    I always have believed in the power of positive thinking, but NOT all situations in life can have a positive ” Silver Lining” the loss of a loved one, and serious life threatening illness of another, losing my Mum to cancer and both my daughter and sister now struggling to win their fight to it, has caused me insurmountable feelings of sadness and frustration, focusing on my health and being there for them is the only thing that keeps me going, but has for the weight loss for vanity sake , well what can I say it pails into significance against the other battles in life, its enough to say that ” making sure of the important things” like love and family and the precious time we have left together should be high up on everyone’s list.

    • Greg Dahlen says:

      i think you could find positives in these situations as well, the way the author is saying find positives is very open, for instance it is positive that you had your mother as long as you did.

    • connie says:

      When someone dies..I always say ..their making way for new life. 🙂
      I also believe we live on thru the hearts of those who love us.
      I wish you peace in your travel to find meaning and positivity.

  13. rachel says:

    Nice application of “The Glad Game” in the classic book “Pollyanna.” I loved reading that book aloud to my 8 year old daughter. Thanks for the reminder of how to play the game.

  14. Kim says:

    the mind is incredibly powerful. Turning a negative into positive can be time consuming and difficult. After being hit by a car two years ago as a pedestrian, 3 months of CBT and ongoing treatment (with muscular issues being predominant) and PTSD, that positive thought process is almost a daily task. Even to lose the weight that has been gained (10kg) is taking what seems like more positive brain power than ever before. The MFP articles are generally helpful to direct a better thought, and I am glad of this 🙂

  15. mary says:

    I lost my leg 6 yrs ago to a careless doctor over a knee replacement. He was found grossly negelegent in his duties by two other doctors. We won a judgement against him, but because this man is a lower life he also went to prison for tax evasion for 22 months. Now I am sitting on a judgement. He is out working making money, $20,000 a month pay back the IRS but I can’t collect anything. This is very frustrating. Not to mention being an amputee my medical costs are expensive. My life has changed 100% and this man is out enjoying his life. I don’t want this to make me bitter about life. Please help.

    • Amanda Jessop says:

      Mary, I am sorry to hear this has happened to you. That is a horrible thing to happen to someone, and I can’t even imagine what you have gone through. Let me just throw some questions out there for you:
      Has this accident made you a STRONGER person in any way? Has this accident made you appreciate life more, or maybe the simple things more? Do you think that you could possibly be an inspiration for other amputee’s that need some inspiration to continue on with their lives?
      Perhaps focusing less on how the doctors life is now, and more on how you can help and inspire others who have gone through a similar situation will give you more positive meaning to your life.

    • Shelby says:

      Mary, what an amazing story you have and I compliment you for reaching out. First, I am not able to understand the amount of pain and anger you must be facing in your heart right now, but I am able to understand anger and pain for different reasons. As it is hard to see any light thru this tradegy, have you considered joining a support group possibly through a church? Being surrounded by people that can support you and be at your side may really help. Lastly, it truly helped me to know that one day we will all be judged and as it may seem he is out living his life, his judgement day will come and it will glorify you and the other lives he has caused so much hurt.

  16. Lacey Hollingsworth says:

    I also believe a positive attitude affects the way a person handles negative circumstances or situations that may have happen to them. For example, in a case where someone has lost a child you go through a grieving process and at some point you have to choose to be positive and move on or continue to stay in the sad cycle . Not saying that you won’t ever feel broken over this from time to time, but choosing to go on and keep functioning in life with a positive attitude not only affects you but those around you. Believe it or not others need you, whether it’s your husband, parent, child, friend, etc…Additionally, seeing someone come out with a positive attitude after going through some thing really difficult serves as an inspiration to others that may be going through a hard time. However, one thing I would like to add is that In my own battle with some sad circumstances one important aspect that has pulled me out of the pit of despair is knowing my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I truly believe he has molded my attitude into a positive one and I thank him for that. It’s not easy getting there (positivity) with a broken spirit, but with God, time, and loved ones you will!! Lastly, in any circumstance (big or small) I do believe a positive attitude can make or break a person’s potential!!

  17. Amanda Jessop says:

    Thanks for all the feedback everyone. I want to first clarify that this article was not meant to say “Think positive…” From a general standpoint, we all know to do that. This exercise is different in that you are more than just THINKING and that you are physically WRITING. Being a true optimist requires more than thinking. The writing part of the exercise is to get you to VISUALIZE the possibilities that may result from our choice of attitude..and ACCEPT those possibilities. You can’t do that with thinking alone.

    That be said, I recommend you physically write these things down. This is meant to be an exercise that helps ADOPT positive thinking….and not an exercise saying “Think positive now”. Maybe the first couple of times you use this exercise, it doesn’t work well for you. I recommend keeping a journal and write in it at least once a week. Our minds are full of a million thoughts every day, and writing it down brings clarity, and it’s almost like once we let it out on paper.. we can get it less out of our minds and crowding our feelings. This general writing might help you adopt this specific exercise even more. Perhaps you end the journal entry each time with one thing you are thankful for.. that will help as well.

    I still have trouble sometimes using this exercise. But with all good exercises (physical or mental), it is not something you can just practice once and think you have conquered it. Practice makes perfect right? You need to apply it consistently to all challenging situations. This consistency will eventually help mold your mind to be more positive. Just like a physical exercise done over time would help mold and shape your body.

    As for the lost of love ones …it’s not impossible to use this exercise. Here are some tips to get you started with your list if you are in this situation:
    -Think about any good things that might have happened prior to loosing a loved one or finding out they were dying. Maybe some of these good things happened to help prepare you for the battle to come
    -Think about the support that you might be getting from friends, neighbors, family. Hopefully these people are loved by many, and you are the recipient of their support.
    – These loved ones might have given up and don’t want to fight for their lives. because of that, YOU are probably forced to practice being positive every day around this person to help inspire them to want to fight for their lives.
    -Perhaps your relationship with this person has become even more close since, or it became more close the time leading up to their death.
    -Maybe this loved one has accomplished a lot in their life, and left a lasting impact on family, friends, and loved ones. That will never be undone and will last forever.

    Hope this helps.

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