Last week I started wearing a small, beaded bracelet on my left wrist. The trick is to keep it there for 21 days — by not speaking in a critical way.
If I say something negative, I will need to switch the bracelet to my right wrist and start the 21 days over again.
This movement was made popular by Oprah. Tim Ferriss then took it up, and he modified the rules slightly.
Tim said it’s ok to say something negative as an observation if I immediately offer a solution. That’s the path toward creative thinking.
Bad things are all around us, but we can either kvetch and moan or use our noggins to solve the problem.
Here’s what’s happened so far, to me.
Last Saturday, about 3 days into the bracelet experiment, I went on a walking tour of Joburg with the company Past Experiences (they are cool, by the way!)
We met at the Sheds at 1 Fox and then walked up and down the CBD learning about the architecture. I didn’t know anyone in the group, but as we stopped and walked together, we chatted lightly among ourselves.
At one point, we walked through a narrow, dark street that stunk of urine. To our right was a part of the Family Court / Police Department complex that was abandoned and trashed, with broken windows.
I turned to the person walking next to me and said, “Shame, that’s such a big space, too bad it’s not being used.” She had some experience with the city and with heritage work, and she said that bureaucracy was preventing these kinds of spaces from being used, re-used, or re-purposed.
Does that count as purely negative talk, on my part? I was actually inquiring, “What’s up with that building?” And she answered me. But I still felt a twinge of guilt, because I was complaining, not offering a solution.
At another point (and I was noticing my language extra carefully because I was speaking with strangers) I said to a woman that the cafe at the top of the Carlton Centre was “atrocious.” This was purely negative, on my part. Bracelet moved, 21 days started again.
My thoughtless and outdated remark reminded me that I hadn’t visited the top of the Carlton, downtown Joburg’s 50-story skyscraper for about 8 years and that I should definitely go back there. Maybe the cafe has improved!
I used to have a friend — we are not friends any longer, and this is one of the reasons why — who consistently described people, restaurants, or clothing as “hideous.” It was one of her favorite words.
She also frequently used the descriptive adjectives “disgusting” and “repulsive.” Unfortunately, the more she used those words, the more I associated them with *her*. And she became, to me, more repulsive — someone who repels or pushes away.
Another friend, with whom I am still friends, pushed me in the right direction. She called me on my own similar behavior, which I hadn’t even noticed. She said, “Right now, it’s hard to talk to you, because you’re starting each sentence with the word ‘No,’ and so I feel this ‘stopping energy’ in our conversations.”
I was so surprised!
Then I listened to myself. She was right.
“Did you like the new Star Wars movie?”
“No, it’s not as good as the original.” First word? NO.
“Are you getting that dress copied, like you said?”
“No, I haven’t found a seamstress. I looked in my nearest shopping center, and there was nobody there.”
What if I removed that initial no?
New version: “I liked the original better.”
New version: “I am still looking for a seamstress, do you have any recommendations? Thanks for reminding me to get back to that project!”
After my friend’s suggestion, I changed my language, to benefit myself and to make it easier for people to speak with me.
There’s a nice website called “Begin with Yes.” Even the title makes me happy.
And a mentor of mine once said, “The answer to ‘How?’ Is is ‘Yes!'”
What he meant by that was that you might not know how to do something right this minute, but if you agree to take it on, you’ll learn and figure it out. However, if you just say no, you’ll never know!
I’m in the middle of Week Two of the positive-speaking bracelet. It’s helping to raise my awareness, at least *after* the words come out of my mouth.
Maybe if I keep it up, it will prevent the negativity from being created in the first place.
Always remember, you are guided!