“Give me three!” my grade school football coach shouted when he caught one of us guys fooling around at practice. We knew what that meant—we had to run three laps around the track at full tilt. After a few times of messing around and suffering our self-inflicted punishment, we typically shaped up.
In a similar fashion, a spiritual direction client at the rehab center where I volunteer, told me he and his three roommates noticed how much negative talk they engaged in throughout the day. Whether they’re bashing themselves or judging others, he said, they noted how the negativity became habit forming and dragged down their spirits.
Focusing on a solution to alleviate their negative spiral, the guys declared a “positivity week.” Every time they caught themselves or one of their roommates grousing, they’d stop and demand, “Give me three!” The one caught, then had to declare aloud three positive characteristics about the person he’d trashed.
After several days, the guys noticed their negative behavior softened. Like my grade school football coach, the “give me three” practice instilled a more positive attitude and spirit. This positivity flowed into their day, allowing them to experience gratitude regardless of the day’s events.
Their practice struck me as simple, yet profound. I noticed how often I trash myself with self-doubt and criticism. I wouldn’t treat my best friend the way I treat myself, I observed.
I declared my own positivity week. I vowed every time I judged myself or others, I’d stop and name three positive characteristics about the victim.
Initially, I resisted this new practice and defaulted back into negativity. After several days, however, I noticed how “give me three” reshaped my thoughts and perspective. I realized I was retraining my brain to become more optimistic.
I likely must watch my self-talk for the rest of my life to avoid slipping back into negativity. I’m going to use the “give me three” practice to help me maintain a positive spirit that’s much more life-giving. It’s a practical tool I’m putting into my life’s toolbox.
What if you and I declare a “positivity” week? Every time we notice negativity rearing its ugly head in self-doubt or demeaning judgment, we train ourselves (and perhaps our family and friends) to go full tilt and “give me three!” It could be the start of something new—something life-giving for all of us.
—brian j plachta