Make it Positive

NFL Quarterback Chad Kanoff helps to explain a few pitfalls to positivity.

While being positive may sound easy and cliche, actually living a relentlessly positive life is a really difficult thing to do. I’d argue that being positive is even a skill that you need to consciously cultivate. Most positive people make an effort to see the glass as half full.

It’s difficult to be positive partly because it’s so easy to fall into the trap of complaining. Or getting a severe case of the “if onlys”— if only I’d thrown it to him, if only I’d had a better team, if only I’d had a better coach, if only my life was different. This type of negative loser talk can infect anyone, at any time, and is particularly contagious in groups. I was always surprised at backup NFL Quarterbacks being some of the worst offenders of this negative talk; these guys have one of the best jobs in America, and yet they still can talk more negatively than positively!

If guys with objectively great jobs can fall into these traps, anyone can. There are three key psychological insights that help explain why we, like NFL backup QB’s, are all pre-disposed to negativity; understanding them will put you on your first steps towards thinking more positively.

The first is the bias blind spot, which basically means humans are prone to seeing the speck in someone else’s eye but not the log in their own. In backup quarterback world this means when someone else gets a chance to play and has success, it’s only because they had such a good offensive line, receivers or coach, and when you get to play and it doesn’t go well, it’s because your teammates weren’t good enough, your coaches are stupid or the refs were unfair. We’re predisposed to seeing all the advantages others have that we don’t.

This makes it easy to always play the blame game when things go wrong. Don’t. As my XFL coordinator Norm Chow used to tell us after every game, only think about what YOU could have done differently. Don’t worry about everyone else, it’ll end up being a lot of wasted breath. Always look inward.

The second principle is the focusing illusion, which is the trap people fall into when they think what they are thinking about right now is all that matters. In backup quarterback world this means that when thinking about their football careers, backup QB’s are only thinking about why they are not starters. They lose sight of the broader story of their success, and only think about how one thing didn’t work out. Try and step back and see the bigger picture.

The last is adversity. Everyone at every level will face it. In backup NFL quarterback world, most guys are used to beating the odds consistently; thus, when they finally don’t get everything they want, they are not as adept at dealing with it. You’ll see this with 4 and 5 star recruits that go to college and then don’t pan out as well. Train yourself to see any obstacle as a necessary bump on your journey to success. For example, if you get hurt, instead of singing the blues, think I’m going to be so much better after doing all this rehab. Come back stronger. What happens to you matters much less than how you respond to it.

Luckily, positive talk is even more infectious than negative talk. Pump up yourself. Pump up your teammates. Be the guy that’s always talking about all the good things your coaches are doing. Be the teammate that gets everyone to believe any setback is just a springboard to success. Be the person that believes they are the luckiest and happiest in the world. We control what we say. Make it positive.