“When we change the way we see things, the things we see start to change.”
That statement defines how important our viewpoint is to living our best or worse life. Most people never examine or question their viewpoint; they simply hold a perspective on things and walk through life holding on to their own narrative, whether it’s true or not.
If you want to change your weight or the way you look, then you must change the way you’ve always viewed what you do with your food and exercise. For example, when starting on a nutrition program, instead of seeing your new food choices as a diet, wouldn’t it be far more beneficial to see them as a lifestyle change…something you really want to do, and not as something you have to do?
That little shift in perspective makes a huge difference in your motivation to move forward and to stay motivated. After all, a diet is temporary, restrictive and focused on all the things you can’t eat. But imagine what a pleasant world your mind would reside in if you started focusing on all the things you can eat, instead of what you cannot eat. It opens you up to a world of healthy choices whereas the diet mindset constricts your choices.
Our perspectives form throughout our entire life and they begin with all of the various things you are exposed to throughout your lifetime. Things like your family members, your education, and all the life experiences you will accumulate over your lifespan, will shape and mold how you view your world.
My father used to tell me all the time, “son, you are who you hang out with!” And boy, is that ever the truth, because a lot of our perspectives are often shaped by the people we surround ourselves with. Even the radio you listen to and the television shows you choose to watch can have a big impact on how you view your world.
Keep an Open Mind
Your goal should be to broaden your horizons with new experiences and to keep an open mind when it comes to changing certain behaviors that you think need to change. For a lot of people that are overweight, they get stuck in a “fat mindset.” Always jumping on the latest diet, spending a lot of money on hokey weight loss scams and believing that they can never change or be thinner. If anyone is holding on to a narrative like that, then they most certainly will be stuck. The more diets they try and fail, the more they develop a belief that nothing will work. After all, if every diet you tried failed, why would any further attempt to change your weight succeed? It’s important to realize that change is always possible; however, it’s even more important to consider that all the weight loss information you have taken in failed you… YOU didn’t fail.
In order to change your viewpoint regarding a dietetic change, imagine what would it be like if you didn’t even consider giving up any foods at all, and instead approached it with more of a worldwide perspective.
For example, if you love red meat and currently eat it 5 days a week, wouldn’t you be able to sustain your diet better if you simply created new boundaries that would allow you to eat meat two days a week instead of five? Aha! That small shift would create a huge alteration in your body over time, but you would still be enjoying a food that you love. Adjust your viewpoint on it a bit further and make the decision that when you do have meat, you’ll eat 5 oz instead of 8 oz. and your brain wouldn’t notice any deprivation, you’d enjoy a food that you love and still alter your health and your weight. Keep in mind, this isn’t about that one food, red meat. This is about developing an alternative viewpoint can you can apply to all the bad foods you love that don’t jive with your desire to be thinner or healthier.
Life is simply better when you don’t hold a rigid viewpoint in regards to change. For some reason when it comes to changing our diets everything positive gets tossed out with the proverbial bathwater, and changing our food choices takes on a large element of negativity.
It’s About the Good Things
One of the techniques I’ve used frequently to help a person develop an alternative perspective is to abruptly ask an unexpected question that throws them off a little bit. When a client starts telling me about all the things they did wrong with their food during the last two weeks, I’ll stop them mid-sentence and ask them, “instead of telling me about all the things you did wrong, tell me about all the things you did right since your last visit?” It’s interesting to watch their facial expressions move from feeling guilt and remorse to feeling uplifted and empowered as they begin focusing on the very opposite things they started off telling me about. It’s then that I tell them that going forward I only want them to focus on what they do right, and quit focusing on what they do wrong. This alternative viewpoint accomplishes a couple things. First, it causes their experiences with food to immediately start feeling better. Secondly, it shows them how changing their viewpoint moves them from a state of negativity; (what I’m doing wrong) to a viewpoint that feels more positive; (look at all the things I’m doing right). And once again this helps enhance their desire to move forward; (feeling pleasure), as opposed to wanting to quit; (feeling pain).
A change in your viewpoint can also increase your self-esteem as well as your self-worth. I’ve been told my entire life that I cannot change the world and that one person cannot make much of a difference. Yet, my entire life has been based on the fact that I do matter and that I can make a difference in the lives of others. I want to help the people I meet and work with to change the way they see themselves and help them improve their lives. I do this through improving their weight, their health and showing them alternative perspectives. I honestly believe that I can change people’s lives, make a difference in their world and in so doing will leave this world in a better place than when I came into it. This is my personal mission, which I wrote down many years ago. What’s your personal mission? It might just enable you to accomplish more by writing it down and knowing what your place in life will become by your own design.
When I worked with psychiatrist Dr. John Simms, he told me something very important; he said, “Keith, the more dichotomous a person is, the more mentally ill they usually are.” When I asked him to explain that to me he explained that when a person has a rigid viewpoint between two extremes, they see the world as black and white, with no ability to see the grey area in between, their viewpoints are too rigid which creates constant conflict with everyone they come into contact with. Just think about that for a moment. In other words, to be healthy from a mental perspective we all need to maintain the ability to accept that there are many alternative viewpoints to every situation we encounter.
Let’s face it, some people seem to always see the world through a negative lens while other people tend to always see the world through a positive lens. And in case you hadn’t noticed, people tend to enjoy being around positive, focused people far more than being around negatively focused people.
How to Change from Negative to Positive
So just how does a person change from a negative perspective over to a positive one? Let’s look at my own life as an example…
I wasn’t born to have a positive mindset, no one is. It’s something that happens when you decide that you want to be that way. If anyone should have a horrible mindset, it should be me. I won’t go into a long list of details here, but my life story is about as bad as it can get.
My father was murdered when I was 13, at the very same time my grandfather was up on murder charges for retaliating, while my sister was wanted in several states. It was plastered all over the local and national news and that caused me to lose every friend I ever had, except one. My first day of middle school started with the principal grabbing me by the hair, dragging me down the hall, into his office, not for doing anything wrong, but rather because of who my family was. He decided it would be a good idea to set me straight from day one that I wasn’t going to reek all the havoc my sister did, and to let me know he was going to keep his eyes on me. He told me that if I slipped up, he’d kick me out of school faster than I could blink. The truth is, I was a good kid. I never broke the rules and never created trouble. But after all the mayhem, losing all my friends, and the news pegging my family as horrible people, I felt I had no choice but to become the trouble maker or black sheep they all thought I was.
By the time high school was finally over, I decided to go to a college a few hundred miles away so no one would know me and I could become the person I knew I was, instead of the person everyone thought I was. But on the first day of college, 12 people from my high school were there and before I knew it, everyone seemed to know about my family story. Once again, I felt pegged as a black sheep, so I continued to be what everyone thought I was.
After graduating, I decided to move several thousand miles away, from northern Michigan to Houston, Texas. Once I did that, and I found that in my new home no one had a preconceived idea of who I was, I was able for the first time to become the person that I knew deep down I was. Because I never had any role models in my life, when I met people with really desirable attributes I would introduce myself, become friends with them, learn how they viewed the world and how they acted around other people. So when I came across a characteristic that I liked in someone, I decided I could easily adopt it as my own. The more people I met, the more I realized that I really liked people with positive attitudes, and one day I decided I too wanted to be one of them.
I became acutely aware that the more positive I was, the more people wanted to hang out with me. I also realized that on the rare occasion that I became focused on something negative, it made me feel worse. With that realization, I decided to only focus on the positive things taking place in my world, because when I did that I always felt good.
Step 1 to Positive
So the first step in changing from a negative viewpoint over to positive one is to decide for yourself that it’s the right way for you to live your life.
Another thing I learned was the power to realize that when I make a mistake it’s a learning lesson to do better in the future. Negative mindset people tend to blame themselves for being stupid when they make a mistake. That self-blame is a really negative mindset because not a month goes by when I don’t discover that I made some sort of mistake. So instead of operating from the position of self-blame, I operate from the perspective that I can grow and learn from it. And in so doing I don’t hold any fear of making a mistake. That, in turn, opens my world up to trying new things.
I also realized that many people can have one bad thing happen to them during their day and it’s all they focus on for days on end. Forget the fact that 10 good things happened to them on that same day; they’re so fixated on the one bad thing that occurred that they push all the good things aside as if they didn’t even happen. I do the reverse of that. I’ll remain focused on all the great things going on in my day and pay very little attention to the bad thing that might have occurred.
I also avoid creating my own anticipatory stress. Anticipatory stress is a state of mind where the person spends too much time worrying about things that aren’t even happening yet. For example, they might fret over an upcoming presentation and worry about all the things that could go wrong. They look too far into their future and create issues or problems that haven’t actually occurred. For example, with an upcoming trip to visit family, they start worrying about confrontations and arguments with a family member they don’t get along with even though the other person hasn’t even said anything yet.
Deal with Today
So I prefer to only focus on the things that I can actually deal with today, and never look to the future pondering on what could go wrong. Doing that just steals the joy from today which leads to more negativity. And by focusing on today instead of tomorrow it allows me to live in the moment.
I avoid exaggerating negativity. Telling yourself that your entire job interview was a complete disaster or convincing yourself that everything about your job is horrible, leads you into a downward spiral that is hard to dig yourself out from. The more negativity that you think, the worse you’ll feel. And the worse you feel, the more negativity you’ll discover. I can’t tell you how many times during an interview on TV or radio that I made a mistake. Yes, I cringe a little when I listen to it later, but I stay focused on how well the rest of it went, not on that one mistake.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
One good way to help change our mindset is to keep a gratitude journal. Every day I ask myself what am I grateful for today? I often do that while I’m taking my morning shower and when I take an evening bath. I am so very grateful for so many things, that often when people as me how I’m doing I respond by saying, “I’m too blessed to be depressed!” The other day one of the physicians I work with called me and the first thing he asked is, “how are you?” I responded by saying enthusiastically, “I’m fantastic and my life is phenomenal!” Which lead him to ask, “Wow, what’s making you feel so fantastic?” So I told him I’m simply blessed with a great job, great relationship, and lots of good friends.
It’s helpful to take a look at what’s bothering you, fix it and move on instead of eating or drinking over it. You can’t go back in the past and change anything that happened to you, so dwelling on it and lamenting about what could or should have happened is a total waste of time and energy. Frankly, dwelling on the past negative experiences will leave you feeling worse about yourself. Learn to accept whatever it was that happened to you and learn from it and move on.
With my own childhood being so bad, I never ever viewed it as bad, instead I honestly believe that I am where I am today because of my bad choices just as much as from my good choices. And I totally believe that while my childhood was bad, I am the person I am today because of all of my experiences, and It’s all those experiences that shaped and molded me into the man I am today, and by viewing it that way I don’t feel like a victim, Instead, I feel empowered.
Of course exercise helps us improve the way we think. If you exercise, you’ll feel better, you’ll look better, and in turn your self-esteem tends to grow higher. Plus, exercise releases endorphins, which are morphine-like chemicals the help lift your outlook.
My own experience has shown me that when I moved from a negative mindset to a positive mindset my brain reconfigured itself and positive thoughts took over. The really amazing thing that changes when you think this way is your life, you tend to walk around feeling good all the time instead of sad and downtrodden.
If you need extra motivation and desire extra help in attaining your goals, you may benefit from having a personal one-on-one coach. We offer one-on-one nutritional coaching through my Lean Body Coaching, which you can learn more about on www.leanbodycoaching.com.
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Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.