“A wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you'd expect.”
Jonathan Lockwood Huie
It's the season of giving. It's also the season for stress. And stress, as we all know, often leads to negative thinking. But what if there were a way to use the concept of giving to combat negativity...? Lucky for us, there is! I bring you Shirzad Chamine's Three Gifts Technique, a terrific tactic for finding the positive in negative situations.
A while back I read about Chamine's Three Gifts Technique in his book Positive Intelligence, and ever since, I've been trying to implement it whenever I encounter a negative situation. The concept is pretty simple, but it's perfect for the stress-filled holiday season. Here's how it works: every time you encounter a bad situation, instead of focusing on how much it sucks, imagine three scenarios in which the situation is actually a good thing.
Here's an example: Let's say you wake up one cold morning and your car won't start. You have a big meeting at noon and you're stressed about being late, anticipating all the car-related stuff you'll have to take care of before going into the office. Instead of rehashing how terrible the situation is, use the Three Gifts Technique to focus on three ways this bad situation might be a good thing. Here are three gifts you might receive if your car doesn't start...
- The gift of time. If you'd gone into work on time, you would have encountered your massive to-do list. Tackling your to-do list would have given you little or no time to prepare for your meeting, but waiting for your car to be fixed gives you a chance to read over your notes for the midday meeting.
- The gift of taking care of business. You'd been meaning to get your car serviced for ages and you don't know when you would've gotten around to it if the car hadn't refused to start. Without proper service, your car could have been damaged (or caused an accident). Getting it serviced will cross a task off your to-do list (and prevent potential car damage).
- The gift of gratitude. With your car not starting, you're given a great reminder of how thankful you are to have a (usually) very reliable mode of transportation. While waiting for the car to be fixed, you can spend some time being grateful for things that you might usually take for granted.
Of course, these are just a few random ideas I came up with. In real life, there can be all sorts of positives in any negative situation -- many of which we often forget to consider because we're so wrapped up in what's going wrong.
Plus, there's always what I like to call the What If Technique. This is when you consider that perhaps something bad happened to prevent something worse from happening. (Say, for example, your car didn't start, which is super annoying -- but if it had, you might have gotten into a car accident on your way to work, which would have been way worse.) The What If Technique is probably not what Chamine had in mind, but, hey, it's another tactic you can use to make the bad seem not so terrible.
In his book, Chamine also reminds readers that you don't always have to actively turn a bad situation into a gift. "Your other option," Chamine writes, "is to just let it go and put it behind you without any residue of unhappiness, regret or distress... Ironically, deciding to just let a negative situation go rather than actively turn it into a gift is a gift in itself: you're strengthening the [muscle] that allows you to let go over regret, guilt, and shame."
Whatever method you choose -- the Three Gifts Technique, the What If Technique, or the Let It Go Technique -- all of these options are better than dwelling on a negative situation and allowing it to ruin your day (or week! or year!). As Chamine writes, "accepting a bad outcome as a gift does not mean inviting more of it or doing nothing about it." What it does mean is that you're making the most of whatever situation you've been given -- and that's one of the best ways to create a positive and present life!
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In the spirit of giving, I've rounded up three great gifts for you, all of which have been designed to help you stay focused on the positive aspects of life. During the hectic holiday season, positivity can be especially difficult, and I hope these three gifts will inspire you to stay positive (despite the holiday stress!).
- A free 16x20 poster that's perfect for combating negativity this holiday season. Click here to download the poster.
- 15% off Stay Positive paperbacks (which, by the way, make great Christmas gifts!). Click here to buy a copy for you or a friend!
- A chance to win a copy of Merry + Bright. Leave a comment below (+ include your email) to enter. Winner will be chosen on 12/17/12.