Our son attended a gymnastics camp last week and learned the meaning of “Switch!” — as in, when one kid’s turn is up, it’s time to “switch!” so the next person gets a turn. I like that word, and I think we should all adopt it…
Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Full Catastrophe Living, writes that, “As long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you, even if you are sick or troubled or in pain and things in your life feel dark and out of control.”
That’s a powerful, important truth for each of us. How often do we beat ourselves up about everything that’s “wrong” with us?
What if, each time one of those negative thoughts arises — especially one of those that keeps coming up over and over again — we say to ourselves, “Switch!” and then replace it with something positive?
“You’re such a loser.” Switch! “You’ve overcome so much already.”
That’s not the only time to say “Switch!” though.
Today I was reminded that while there is more right with me than wrong with me, there’s also more right with them than there is wrong with them.
Who is them? Your spouse or partner. Your family members. Your friends. Your boss. Your employees. Your co-workers. Your customers. Your enemies. Everyone you meet.
Let’s face it, they can all be annoying from time to time. And still, there is more right with them than there is wrong.
Maybe Jon would put it this way: “As long as they are breathing, there is more right with them than there is wrong with them, even if you do find them to be quirky or annoying or ‘messed up.’”
Just as we will overlook our own strengths and beauty and instead dwell on every shortcoming (who says it’s a shortcoming, by the way?), what do we often focus on in another person?
That little quirk. That sound they make when they chew. The weird way they say that word. That they don’t use a coaster. That they’re always so negative. That they’re always so positive. (Even something “right” can become “wrong” in our eyes — often with roots in jealousy or envy.)
Of course it’s those we are with most of the time that really get the brunt of this, because what we focus on expands. That little thing is magnified over time to the point that it takes up our entire viewfinder. Now that becomes the defining quality of that person: He is so [insert annoyance here]. She is just [insert quirk here].
As we often say to our children, “How would you like it if someone did that to you?”
Well, we know that others do do that to us and it hurts, but that’s out of our control. What we can control is how we see those around us, so let’s start right here — with you and me. Are you in?
The next time you catch your mind going to that “thing” that bugs you about someone — even if it’s someone you just met — let that be your cue to “Switch!”
Remind yourself that even if there are 101 things “wrong” with this person, there must be at least 102 things “right.” Shift your focus to one of those things and stay with it for a while to allow it soak in: She’s so [good attribute]. I really admire that about her. It’s great to meet someone with that quality… Feel it.
You don’t even have to wait for a “next time,” by the way. As you’ve been reading this, it’s very likely that someone has come to mind whom you know you struggle to see in a positive light. If so, “Switch!” Pause right now and pick one of his or her good qualities to focus on. Again, hold that quality in your mind and celebrate it until you can really feel a positive sensation.
Yes, it might feel awkward. It might feel forced. It will most likely be difficult.
But how can your interaction — and your relationship — with that person not be improved with your adjusted perspective?
And not only that, but you benefit as negative thoughts are replaced with positive ones.
It takes time, but with practice, you can actually retrain your brain to more easily see what’s “right” in others rather than going straight to what’s “wrong.” And that’s always our aim: progress.
One last time, all together now: “Switch!”