This is a very interesting long passage from one of my favorite book: “Know can do!” written by Ken Blanchard, Paul J. Meyer and Dick Ruhe, (San Franciso: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2007)
“Now that you mention it, negative thinking is much more prevalent among people than positive thinking. I wonder why.”
Phil was quiet for a moment. “We’re often programmed that way,” he said at last.
“How so?” asked the author.
“When we come into the world, we are completely dependent on our parents or surrogate parents—those who choose to raise us. And we have no choice about who these people are or what our circumstances will be. Right from the beginning, I think all of us are searching for unconditional love. We don’t want to be loved conditionally, depending on what we do or say on any given day. We want to be loved for who we are. Unfortunately, all the people who are gathered around us—our parents and other adults—haven’t necessarily gotten this kind of unconditional love themselves, which makes it hard for them to give it. Thus, they tend to love us conditionally, based on our behavior. So we are constantly trying to do things to gain approval and a sense of belonging.”
“How does this relate to negative thinking?” asked the author.
“As kids, we tried to get attention through our achievements, seeking praise and approval from our parents. It was a frustrating process, because, like all of us, our parents tended to accentuate the negative rather than the positive. When we behaved well, they expected it and therefore didn’t say anything. When we did something wrong, they jumped all over us.”
“But don’t you think it’s important to correct kids when they’re off course?” the author asked.
“Sure,” said Phil, “but not without positive reinforcement, too. When we don’t get caught doing anything right, we start to doubt ourselves and doubt others. We begin setting up defense mechanisms to protect ourselves. We start filtering everything that comes to us through a mind that is totally dominated by negative thinking. Our minds become closed. We adopt judgmental attitudes and our insights are fear driven.”
“I had great parents,” said the author. “I don’t think they always caught me doing things wrong.” “So you feel really good about yourself.” “Generally,” said the author, “but I still have my doubts and fears about myself.”
“Where did you pick those up?” asked Phil.
“Probably in school. I didn’t learn like all the other kids and often got bored with school. That got me in trouble. On top of that, I wasn’t a very good reader and some of the teachers used to make me read in front of the class. It was embarrassing, particularly when I mispronounced some of the words.”
“That’s interesting,” said Phil. “How did you get to be a writer?”
“That’s a story in and of itself. I wasn’t supposed to be good at that, either. But I got interested in leadership and then got some opportunities to teach. One thing led to another, and then I took a leadership course from my department chairman. I wanted to audit his course, but he insisted I take it for credit. This involved not only taking tests but also writing papers. He was right. I learned a lot.
“At the end of the semester, he asked me to write a textbook with him. He had been teaching leadership for ten years but was a nervous wreck about writing. Since he thought I was a good writer, he figured we’d be a great team. He was the first person to ever praise my writing. With that encour¬agement, I sat down with him, and over the next year we wrote a textbook that is still used today, almost forty years later.”
“His encouragement was really important, wasn’t it?” asked Phil.
“It sure was. When you’ve written a book, people think you can write, and then you get other opportunities. Pretty soon I realized that all that negative stuff they had told me about myself in school wasn’t true. In time I became a best-selling author.”
“It took you a while to overcome all that negative programming, didn’t it, though?” asked Phil.
“I guess you’re right about that. It’s interesting. My parents accented the positive with me, but a number of people at school bombarded me with negative programming about my reading and writing skills.”
Phil smiled. “As you can tell from your own example, if you had listened to and believed all the negative things people said, you wouldn’t have achieved half of what you’ve accomplished. You should feel good about that.” The entrepreneur reached for the bread basket and offered it to the author.
“Thanks,” said the author, helping himself to a slice. “Two things are becoming clear as we talk. First of all, one person who shows confidence in you can make all the difference in the world. Second, we have a choice about who we’re going to listen to. If I’d listened to all the naysayers in my life, I might have accepted a less challenging job and have limited expectations for myself. An encouraging word was all I needed to climb out of the negative box I’d been put in.”
“You were lucky,” said Phil. “A lot of people are so beaten down that they can’t hear positive feedback when it comes their way. They discount it.”
“It’s sad, but most people can’t overcome the kind of negative conditioning you went through,” said Phil with a sigh. “They achieve only a small percentage of what they could, because they accept too little too soon, and everything is filtered through their negative thinking and their closed, judgmental mind-set.”
“I’m glad I was one of the lucky few. The right person came into my life at the right time. But when you put all the things you’ve been talking about together, it does look discouraging,” said the author.
“It could be,” agreed the entrepreneur. “Compared with what our Creator had in mind for us, we often live our lives under a cloud of negative thinking. We put on a judge’s robe when we read, listen, and watch everything, which is totally unfair to our minds, our hearts and our futures. It’s the worst case of self-abuse. It’s hard to be a learner if your filtering system is damaged.”
“So how exactly does a negative, closed mind-set affect learning?” asked the author.
The entrepreneur thought for a moment. “What happens is that only an extremely small percentage of the information we receive has a chance to be remembered, let alone be allowed into our subconscious mind, accepted, and then actually applied and put to use. When we read a book, listen to an audio, watch a video, or attend a seminar, we are reading and listening with our present mental attitude, which in many cases is focused on worry, indecision, negative thinking, prejudgment, opinionated thinking, et cetera. All the things that people say and the sound that occurs around us is 100 percent of what is available for us to hear. The books and other literature we choose to peruse is 100 percent of what is available to enter our minds through reading. But with a closed, negative mind-set, by the time information that we hear or read encounters the mental traffic in our subconscious—where we can accept, believe, understand, and use it—only about 10 percent gets through. It’s like a ten-lane freeway converging into a single lane. What do you think is the result?”
“A traffic jam,” said the author. “Is there any way to break up that traffic jam and improve that percentage?” asked the author. “To get the traffic flowing again, as it were?”
“Yes, there is,” said the entrepreneur. “And it’s a skill that can literally revolutionize your life.”
The solution to retaining more of what you learn is to listen with an open, positive mindset,” (…)
• with no prejudice or preconceived ideas,
• with a learning attitude that is excited about new information,
• with positive expectancy,
• with a pen in hand taking notes,
• with a desire to hear not only what’s being said, but also what it can trigger in your imagination,
• with a “how can I use this?” attitude.
“This type of mind-set can spark an ‘aha!’ experience that can give you the last number in the combination to the vault of life that you’ve been looking for.”