Mind Management and the Battle for Positivity

Former Formula One driver and 3 time world champion Jackie Stewart may hold the record for use of the phrase “mind-management”. Not only was he a believer in the power of the mind for himself and his own career, he has applied this lens towards other drivers in judgement of their mind-management skills as well.

While the subjects of his amateur psychoanalysis may not always appreciate this attention, the fact is that Jackie Stewart is right about the importance of mind management as a key ingredient for success.

I have suffered from negativity and depression throughout my adult life. Not only has this affected me professionally and personally, it’s also affected the lives of others – friends, family, and basically everyone I’ve ever interacted with. That might sound dramatic, but in fact it’s very simple – we all influence other people every day, for better or for worse. I haven’t always grasped the importance of this fact.

Online conversations and the rise of social media has not helped me in this area. I’m not good with text only conversations with people that I don’t know extremely well. My brain can’t accurately fill in the gaps of missing visual cues present in in-person conversations, so my interactions with others online have always been more error-filled and antagonistic than they would be in person. It’s not a “hiding behind the keyboard” thing either, it’s just that I need to hear a person’s voice and preferably see a person’s face to most effectively interpret social interactions.

The good news is that happiness and positivity aren’t just the results of life circumstances inflicted on us. They’re also choices. This is important for me because while I can trace some of my less-than-positive outlook directly to specific situations and events in my life, some of it is also personality and probably an inherited tendency towards depression, and these are things that can I can combat.

Earlier in my adult life, I didn’t spend enough time being introspective and examining my strengths and weaknesses. This combined with the fact that during the summer when the sun is out and the skies are blue my outlook is much more positive and I don’t feel like I have a problem, I have not actively worked to improve my attitude for most of my life.

I’m doing it now.

Part of the importance of positivity is personal. Your success is tied directly to your state of mind. The only difference between you and people who have succeeded at something you feel like you’re failing at is the mental attitude with which they approach it. Yes, there are disciplines such as professional sports, music, math, science, etc where you also need a ton of natural ability and thousands of hours of practice and study, but an ordered mind is all you need to be a successful traveler on your chosen path instead of an unhappy quitter.

A second reason positivity is important is social. I’ve listed this after personal importance, but in fact it’s equally important. How we affect others does matter. It matters to our children, because they learn from what we do and much less from what we say. We can either inspire and uplift family and friends, or we can at best be a downer and at worst be a stumbling block on their path to happiness. And it matters at work because you can either succeed and have fun as a team, or you can be fragmented and miserable at a place that most adults spend more time at than their own homes.

It’s simply not fair to others to unleash your inner Kraken of negativity. I know this because I’ve done it too many times to count. It’s not all about me, it’s not all about you. Other people matter.

There are very helpful and very specific techniques that can be used in the battle against negativity and depression, and (though it may not always be apparent to people on the outside) I’ve started to have success with some of them. Starting in my next post, I will write about some things I am currently do to improve myself, hopefully to the benefit of people around me.

Finally, for those of you reading this and thinking “this jackass is the LAST person I’d listen to about positivity”, believe me, I hear you. I’m working on it because I need to, not because I’m lacking for hobbies and need something to do!