Overcoming Bad: Getting To The GOOD

Overcoming the bad to get to the GOOD

The Power of Positive Thinking
Moving past WHAT & WHY to get to HOW

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
In the Executive Functioning Series

Memory and Energy Management

Visiting a few blogs as I begin to populate a brand new Pinterest Board [Our TBR Lists], I clicked over to add one of Debbie Gies/D.G. Kaye’s books, “Words We Carry.”

I jumped over to read and “like” a few reviews on the Amazon site for this book, and my eyes took note of what is referred to as the publisher’s blurb.

Sharing her journey toward overcoming the demons of low self-esteem with the determination to learn to love herself, Gies’ book allows us to see clearly how hurtful events in our lives can linger, and set the tone for our lives.

I was instantly reminded of an article I posted over three years ago now, on a topic I believe it’s time to revisit: our tendency to collect and carry every stick and stone that has ever broken our bones.  [Are we hard-wired to focus on the bad news?].

I began that article with a question that I think is an important one:
“How come the bad stuff sticks and the good stuff fades??” 

On the way to answering that question I asked another, in response to a comment from one of my virtual friends, essentially this:

I have lived 365 days times my years on this earth.
They can’t all be keepers — and this one wasn’t.

While that’s a wonderful lens through which to look at our occasional experiences of one of those days,  my brain immediately popped in another question:

Why CAN’T all the days be keepers?

I mean, why don’t we just filter out the crummy parts and file away what was good about the day so that ALL of our memories are pleasant and uplifting?

I’m aware, I went on to say, that Pollyannaisn’t exactly everybody’s idea of their favorite role model, but WHY NOT?

I believe I did a good job explaining why our brains tend to hang on to the “warnings” – a memory technique that was extremely pro-survival.

It’s helpful to understand why whenever we are agonizing over yet another of those negative thoughts inspired by some of our earliest experiences.

However, I don’t believe that it is exactly pro-LIFE to allow our brain to continue to have its way with us – especially when we can retrain it.

Life-lessons from my clients

As I continue to say, my clients bring more than a few “juggling struggles” to their coaching calls. They frequently call for their appointments with resolve and hope tarnished by the latest disaster . . . which reminds them of an earlier one, and off we go.

We spend the session in another way entirely, as I practically drag them over to reliving their successes. They hang up with a much better view of themselves — one that empowers them to “get back on the horse” to gallop full speed ahead once more — until the next time something stops them cold and we revisit the process.

We all do it until we train ourselves not to.
And those “positivity” reminders don’t help until we do.
Wrong technique.

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What you resist persists

I know you’ve heard and read those words – or others that are very like them.

What those words really mean, from a brain-based perspective, is that whatever it is to which we give repeated time and focus digs “brain-trenches,” making it all the more difficult for us to travel outside them — for good or for ill.

Every single time we think the thoughts or say the words that drag us down emotionally, it is that much more likely that we will be drawn to thoughts that will drag us down another time. The reverse is also true – once we give the frequently deeper “negative” trenches some time to fill in.

Look at the graphic to the left.  How likely is it that anyone is going to attempt to wander outside the “snow-trench” that has been dug for them?  And how much just plain WORK would it be to do so?

Think of the pathways in your brain in a similar manner.  If we want them to fill in so that it is possible for us to choose to go another way entirely, STEP ONE is to stop digging them deeper!

  • We need to train ourselves to pay more attention to what lights us up and stop giving attention to the brain-chatter that drags us down.
  • From a practical standpoint that means, “Don’t think those negative thoughts.”  Duh!

Say what?

HOW do we train ourselves to pay more attention to the good news?

HOW do we make sure we lay down our many every day, garden variety good memories to serve as wind beneath our wings as we move through life’s inevitable challenges?

HOW do we unhook the cascade of badness that follows in rapid succession with every not-so-great thought that activates our fear centers?

More importantly, how do we stop getting hooked by old fears activated by old memories in the first place?

GREAT questions!

When life hands you lemons . . .

I’m not the only coach who has posted articles about reframing those negative thoughts and making gratitude lists— making lemonade from lemons, essentially.

They are all super exercises designed to change your come-from. Bringing the dynamic to consciousness is an excellent start. Awareness is always the first step on the pathway to growth and change.

However, even giving that little bit of time and focused attention to thoughts that are troubling is not really the bestway to proceed directly toward building new pathways so that the old ones can “fill in” through disuse.

  Related Post: The Exploding Optimist (great article from champion optimist, Sue Vincent;
includes some uplifing & humorous personal examples of her reframes of a crazy/crummy week)

Brain Wiring

Neurons that fire together wire together – and vice versa.

I’m sure most of us know that we’re not really “wired” up there in our heads, and I’m sure more than a few of us understand that the machine-analogy has fallen into disfavor as a description of the brain.

It’s useful, however, to use “hard-wired” to point out items on the list of “standard features” — as opposed to the after-market installations.  You know, those differences we often reference in nature/nurture debates.

It’s also useful, when we think of thoughts (and neurons that make thought possible) as “wired together,” to help us conceptualize how thought cascades from thought along similar “pathways” that become more deeply entrenched the more often we activate them.

  • Yeah sure, that little feature kept us alive long enough to pass along our genes by making sure we recalled where the sabre-tooth tigers liked to hang out – making sure a close call was never repeated simply because we didn’t remember where it happened – or that is happened.  Yay brain!
  • However, the more space we give to rehearsing the location of those sabre-tooth hangs, the less “focus-room” we are able to give to enjoying the every day wonders of our lives.
  • More to the point, every time we pull up the sabre-tooth memories, we are digging deeper the “sabre-tooth thoughts” trench.  How deep does it really need to be to assure ourselves that we will remember to run at the first sign of a sabre-tooth?

Back to our old friend, Mr. Amygdala

The amygdala, remember, is that part of the brain that reacts to emotions of fear and anxiety, activating our fight-flight-freeze programming in response to any threatening stimulus – in fractions of a millisecond.

That, in turn, shuts down the PFC (pre-frontal cortex), the “switching station” for the higher order thinking/decision making parts of the brain that we need on board to be able to work through problems and make decisions that will allow us to step through to solutions.

Mr. Amygdala doesn’t differentiate between a current threat and the strong memory of the threat — and he doesn’t want us using resources of brain or body anywhere they won’t be needed to keep us alive. He commandeers them whenever he suspects that they might be needed for tasks more urgent than thinking.

Danger is danger, and danger sounds the first alarm.

The PFC’s slower response time is no match for the speed of Mr. Amygdala’s finger on the “kill-logical-thinking” panic button. Your PFC may override your automatic response to actually head for the hills or arm yourself for battle, but it’s not likely to come up with appropriate responses to the challenges of a particular 21st century distraction of the memory of a problem.

In other words, after Mr. Amygdala has sounded the alarm, attempts to access your more reasonable, logical self to exert your will over the reactive, more primitive parts of your brain aren’t likely to be very successful.

Higher-order cognitive skills are modulated by the PFC – which is taken off-line, remember, by activation of the more primitive circuits of the brain in what used to be referred to as the limbic system (Mr. Amydala’s turf).

And that doesn’t give us those happy dancing feet we love
that make accomplishment easier and a lot more fun.

So what can we DO?

Think a different thought.  Seriously.  Distract yourself by deliberately thinking about something that makes you really happy every single time you engage with a negative thought.

You probably won’t be able to even remember those items in your sabre-tooth moments, so begin by making a list of what always makes you feel happy – but only those things that never drag along those “yes but” thoughts.  That’s important.  The nano-second you become aware that there is some negative awareness riding the draft, switch to another one immediately.

Keep your list handy and teach yourself to refer to it until you’ve built the habit of redirecting yourself to a more positive and resourceful place  – once you have successfully jettisoned your current habitof rehearsing the thoughts that make you feel crummy.

Here are eight of my own as examples to get you started:

  1. Playing with my puppy TinkerToy (or even looking into his furry – almost always messy – little face). Taking him outside for a walk or a quick game of frisbee is even better!
  2. Dancing – and it especially makes me giggle to dance all by myself in my office.
  3. Taking time from the daily to-dos to make myself some blended iced-coffee – looking forward to its cooling, yummie taste.
  4. Slathering moisturizer on my legs and arms – or giving myself a quick foot rub.
  5. Singing a song I had the pleasure of singing onstage.
  6. Wandering down my long hallway looking at the show pictures of my acting days hanging all over those walls, picking one and reliving the wonderful memories of those wonderful times (several in particular, of a show I directed that I recall as absolutely perfect.)
  7. Revisiting the wealthiest feeling of my life when I was able to buy two little one dollar necklaces for two little girls in carefully mended dresses looking longingly – anonymously watching their little faces light up when the vendor walked over and just handed them to them.
  8. Rereading a comment or three from folks who really GOT what I was trying to say in the article and took the time to tell me how it helped.


NOT just “whistle a happy tune”

Some of you may actually DO that, by the way, and find it effective.  We all have different sure-fire happy thoughts and activities.

The point is to stop digging negative brain-trenches so that you can access happier states of mind — BECAUSE happier states are more resourceful states, and more resourceful states lead directly to more effective Executive Functioning.

What works for you?
It will be well worth your time to figure that out —
and train yourself to DO it.

If I can help with that retraining, be sure to get in touch.


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IN ANY CASE, stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some one-on-one (couples or group) coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this article, click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end, or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page. Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC

Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer — Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl — Multi-Certified — 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world’s first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ – including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that “It takes a village to educate a world.” I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated – seeing “a world that works for everyone” in my lifetime. Get in touch when you’re ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill “when ‘wanting to’ just doesn’t get it DONE!”

ADD . . . and-so-much-more

The Power of Positive Thinking
Moving past WHAT & WHY to get to HOW

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
In the Executive Functioning Series

Memory and Energy Management

Visiting a few blogs as I begin to populate a brand new Pinterest Board [Our TBR Lists], I clicked over to add one of Debbie Gies/D.G. Kaye’s books, “Words We Carry.”

I jumped over to read and “like” a few reviews on the Amazon site for this book, and my eyes took note of what is referred to as the publisher’s blurb.

Sharing her journey toward overcoming the demons of low self-esteem with the determination to learn to love herself, Gies’ book allows us to see clearly how hurtful events in our lives can linger, and set the tone for our lives.

I was instantly reminded of an article I posted over three…

View original post 2,345 more words


Categories: Featured

10 replies »

  1. Just got back from a walk into town to pick up a few supplies. Hot, sweaty and a bit tired from carrying parcels up the hill (waiting for a little dog on a leash to sniff and pee on every tree and pole along the way), I perked up immediately when I saw your reblog. Thank you so very much. You da’ bomb!


    • I am happy I could be the source of a perk up. Walks are good, even better if you use one of those all purpose carts to carry the parcels, that way you and the little dog on a leash can stop to sniff and pee on every tree and pole, with no worries. 🤗🤓😈😁😂😘😜😊🌹🌻🌼

      Liked by 1 person

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