The New Year is traditionally the time to reflect on our life and the changes we want to make. But how many times have we resolved enthusiastically to lose that weight, give up smoking, meet our ideal partner or get a better job, only to find anxiety soon raises its head and turns good intentions into failure and frustration? And the old habits come back with a vengeance.
Why does this happen?
This was the burning question that drove Clayton John Ainger on a personal journey of exploration from depression, debt and divorce to writing a best-selling book, to becoming an international speaker and business consultant to multinational companies.
Get Conscious Awareness
Ainger was always fascinated with why people experience negativity. “There must be a purpose to it,” he said in a phone interview.
Understanding that negativity is a natural and normal response from our body, a message that something is not quite right – or how we think it should be – has allowed Ainger to face his fears and change his life.
Negativity can be used as a fuel to spur us on rather than block us, he said. No longer being satisfied with the status quo means that we can actually live a better life.
But how can a black mood motivate? Surely it’s natural to want to forget our troubles with a “duvet day”, try to ignore it, and have a few glasses of wine?
Society says that negativity is bad and should be stifled. But that doesn’t work, said Ainger. If we don’t want to look at those fears and anxieties, we can’t do something about them. Ninety per cent of negativity is the unconscious reliving of past events, causing fear, anger, sadness and so on to appear.
“Whatever those fears are, those anxieties are, we have to own them, and when we own them we can do something about them. If we don’t, they often come back with bigger teeth, because we’ve not taken the time to learn the lessons that are associated with them,” Ainger said.
Get conscious awareness of the negativity, acknowledge it, go into the resistance, embrace it and take a different course of action – this is the lesson Ainger learnt starting when he was at rock bottom 12 years ago and culminating in the publication of his award-winning book The Ego’s Code.
Now coaching individual and corporate clients, he has helped people turn their lives around and increase commercial impact.
One corporation saw a 40 per cent increase in engagement after working with Ainger. Another made a substantial increase in revenue, while another saw team cohesion and collaboration grow exponentially.
“Initially I was very fearful of putting my work out into the world. A lot of that was about worthiness and overcoming unworthiness, so I literally practise what I preach. It’s really important to me that I do that,” Ainger said.
One German client wanted to build a great business from the ground up but didn’t know where to start. Fears that she was unworthy of success, couldn’t do certain things and wouldn’t find the finances plagued her. With Ainger’s help she faced her worries and owned them. Her business is now thriving, and her relationships are changing overnight.
“She says to me, ‘I’ve got this really amazing relationship with my husband now and my friends because I am able to bring more of myself into the relationship’,” Ainger said.
Another client, a businesswoman from the United States, had numerous challenges over the years with her father, getting triggered by and responding negatively to things he said to her. Ainger gave her an easy technique to use with her father at a Thanksgiving gathering. First, she thanked him for telling her how he felt and asked what he needed from her. After listening to his reply, she could respond with her feelings about what he said and what she needed. For the first time, they were able to have an adult conversation together.
She had tried to think positively in the past, but it had never worked.
Why not? After all, plenty of books have been written on the subject.
“Positive thinking doesn’t work,” said Ainger. Thinking optimistically about attracting money, for example, and finding a new job won’t work if our feelings are not aligned with our thoughts and we don’t feel worthy of that job.
Rewire the Brain
But change is possible, at any time in life.
Neuroscience can actually explain the process in the brain with the Hebbian theory: “cells that fire together, wire together”. When we change habitual thinking patterns and act in a different way, neural pathways in the brain are altered, or rewired, even into adulthood, debunking the previously held core belief that a child’s personality was set from the age of 7 onwards.
Repeat a new experience over and over again and these rewired neural highways in the brain are solidified, dissolving the previous neural pathway that got in the way.
Not beating ourselves up is often the first step. “You have to be kind to yourself, you have to be respectful of yourself, and when you start to do that you see other people will be kind to you,” Ainger said.
3-Step Daily Process to Banish Negativity
1. Spend 15–20 minutes contemplation “me-time”– either in meditation, or in nature or in the gym, whatever works best for you. Raise your awareness and acknowledge negativity in your mind. See it as an impetus for change.
Own the negative thoughts and feelings. Embrace them. Make a conscious choice how you want to respond, rather than reacting in a way that could harm you or someone else. Taking positive action releases the power of the negativity over you. If the resistance is too overwhelming or you are too busy to deal with it, take a step back, note your reactions in a journal and work on it later at a suitable time. Focus on one issue at a time.
2.Every day do one thing you love to do, that makes your heart sing.
3. The WIN technique – do this to become calm and focused every time before you go into challenging situations or have difficult conversations that may trigger your negativity:
W: Walk and breathe – Deep, controlled breathing helps you to calm down, bringing clarity to the situation. Walk in a figure-of-eight to access both sides of your brain – creativity and logic.
I: Intention – As you walk, focus on your intention and on the best outcome from the situation.
N: Nail it – Deliver, succeed and celebrate! So many people quickly move onto the next thing without thinking about what they just achieved. Celebrating your achievements helps you to get a sense of your real value and real self-worth. When you value yourself, others will automatically do the same.