I slept in last Saturday!
After all...Saturday is when we get to sleep in!
My phone shrilled at 10 a.m.! “This is the Healdsburg Senior Center. It’s 10 a.m.! Where ARE you? There are 35 people waiting!”
Healdsburg is 30 minutes away!
The explosion of feelings in my heart was devastating; panic, fright, fear, self-loathing, guilt, shame and an inconceivable anger at myself.
“I’ll be there in 30 minutes!”
“I’ll see if I can get them to stay!”
As I scrambled getting dressed, Mary heard self-expletives she had never heard before.
I walked into their event room 27 minutes later, looking as if I had just run the Boston Marathon.
As I stumbled to the front of the room, a woman in the front row quietly articulated, “No one is perfect, Steve!”
I got teary-eyed from what she had just declared.
I didn’t set up my laptop, my projector, my screen, or my PowerPoint.
I simply stood in front and began a presentation I had prepared for them on the subject, “Feelings - Where Do They Come From?”
And then I spoke from my heart.
It was one of the best presentations I have ever given!
When I was done, many of them asked when I could return to speak to them again.
But as I was racing to Healdsburg that morning, my mind was filled with self-loathing.
And then I remembered the message I have been giving to thousands of audiences about feelings: that our feelings are NOT coming from what is happening to us, they are coming from what we are SAYING about what is happening to us.
So as I drove, and talked to the Lord a LOT, my mind eased a bit.
I cannot drive any faster…
I cannot change the time…
I cannot stop them from leaving before I got there.
But when I had arrived, that wonderful woman simply reiterated what all of us already know.
NONE of us is perfect!
For most of my life, my brain and I didn’t believe that!
In fact, we often didn’t even like each other!
And he was also my harshest critic.
But I was not alone.
Studies are discovering that many of us are simply nasty to ourselves. It may be about our weight, or our physical appearance, or the incredibly stupid mistakes we have made. (Like lying in bed while 35 people were waiting for me to speak 30 miles away.)
We say or think awful things about ourselves – all in an attempt to make ourselves eat less and/or exercise more. You might call yourself lazy in an effort to make yourself be more active. Or you might tell yourself you’re a failure in the hope that it will make you try harder at whatever you’re failing at.
However, the research of Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman discovered an ideal praise-to-criticism ratio – and although they focused on praise and criticism coming from others, it seems likely that the same numbers would hold true when they are coming FROM INSIDE OURSELVES.
According to their study of business teams published in the Harvard Business Review, the factor that made the greatest difference in a team’s success rate was “the ratio of positive comments (“I agree with that,” for instance, or “That’s a terrific idea”) to negative comments (“I don’t agree with you” “We shouldn’t even consider doing that”) that the participants made to one another. (Negative comments, we should point out, could go as far as sarcastic or disparaging remarks.)
Six positive comments to one negative
The highest performing teams had an average ratio of almost six positive comments for every negative one, while the lowest performing teams had an average of one positive comment for every three negative ones.
Interestingly, this outcome is remarkably similar to the results of John Gottman’s study of the likelihood of married couples getting divorced or staying together.
And the winner is...
In Gottman’s work, the single biggest factor in a couple’s ability to remain married is the ratio of positive to negative comments the partners make to one another.
The optimal ratio is very similar to the one found in the Harvard study – five positive comments for every negative one. (The ratio for couples who ended up divorced was closer to one positive comment for every negative one.)
Now let’s return to the Healdsburg Senior Center.
That wonderful woman reminded me, “No one is perfect, Steve.” And yes…next time I will set my alarm a day ahead so this doesn’t happen again.
But I also had to remind myself, “Steve! You have been giving presentations for 30 years, and you can count the number where you were late on one hand.
So when I reached 42 and began teaching this stuff in colleges, my brain and I became the best of buddies. We have also learned (and yes, dear reader, it is something we can learn) to laugh at each other…especially when we mess up.
So now as I think of the Healdsburg Senior Center, my brain and I laugh together and then I feel very warm. In fact, when I want to feel good about myself, I now remember standing in front of those precious people and sharing my heart.
Steven Campbell is the author of “Making Your Mind Magnificent.” His seminar “Taming Your Mind, Unleashing Your Life” is now available on line at stevenrcampbell.teachable.com. For more information, call Steven Campbell at 707-480-5507.