Driving Out the Snakes

“May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.”

This coming Wednesday we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The day is usually celebrated with a “wearing of the green”, parades, celebrations, traditional meals and lifting a glass or two in  remembrance of the man who, according to legend, stood on an Irish hillside and delivered a sermon that drove the island’s serpents into the sea. Some scholars believe the snake story is an allegory for St. Patrick’s eradication of pagan ideology, and the introduction of Christianity.  However this writer sees a different analogy.  Perhaps our blessed Saint was encouraging us to rid our minds of the negative thoughts and beliefs that hold us back and limit our ability to enjoy the blessings that surround us.

Negativity is a serpent; it lies quietly in wait to strike, and when it does, the manner in which we respond will determine the outcome of the bite.  Some will barely miss a beat and continue their pursuits as if nothing happened; it would almost be as if they are immune.  Others will not be so quick to rebound; they will need antivenom, recovery time and support.  Unfortunately there are also those who will languish in pain, ignoring the need for help and letting the venom of negativity control their life.  

When negativity strikes you personally, or permeates the world around you, it can quickly become toxic and hold you back from living the life you want.  So as a testament to St. Patrick’s ridding the emerald isle of serpents, I wanted to share seven(a lucky number) strategies for keeping the serpent of negativity out of your life:

  • Find the Good – When things begin to look bleak and negative thoughts start to crop up and overwhelm you, counter by asking yourself positive questions that will help you to feel better, but also to learn, so you can grow.
    • What’s one good thing about this situation?
    • What can be done differently next time to have a better outcome?
    • What’s one thing I can learn from this?
    • Who can support and help me in this situation?
  • This Isn’t Prime Time – Too often we worry about what others will think. The truth is most people don’t have that much time, attention or energy to think or talk about what you do. They have their hands and minds full with their kids, jobs, pets, hobbies and their own fears and worries.  You can’t control what others think, but you can control what you think!
  • Release Judgement – Unfortunately we all constantly compare ourselves to others or compare our lives to some ideal.  This often breeds a sense of dissatisfaction because we make unfair comparisons. Letting go of judgment (not easy), enables us to feel more at ease. Some ways to take a break from judgmental thoughts include:
    • Recognizing the reaction, observing it, and then letting it go. 
    • Positive judge – When you notice you are negatively judging a person, yourself, or a situation, look for a positive quality, too. 
  • Label and Learn When negative thoughts occur, rather than embracing them with emotion, label them and go deeper; why do I feel resentful, why do I feel scared, why am I worried?  Labeling and learning become powerful ways to cope with stress and develop emotional intelligence tools for use in the future.
  • Let it Go! – There is nothing wrong with reflecting on past experiences. This is how we can learn, grow and mature as people. Negativity arises when you dwell on a situation repeatedly with no real intention to learn and grow–but instead you are self-beating or wishing things were different instead of being accepting of things as they are.  Ask yourself:
    • What did I learn from that experience?
    • If given the chance to do it again, what would I have done differently?
    • How can I apply what I have learned to what I am experiencing now?
  • It’s the Company You Keep – The thoughts that drive us are influenced by our social circle.  Complainers like to associate with like minded people.  They ruminate on cause and consequence and give little thought to solutions.  No less is true of achievers.  Achievers consider the situation, seek growth and take action.  Avoid perpetually negative people when you can, or at least be aware of what habits might be rubbing off on you.
  • Be Grateful – We take much of what we have granted.  When we get negative it’s easy to forget the positive things in life; especially the ones that are just a normal part of life.
    • The love of family
    • A roof over our head
    • Kind and helpful colleagues and friends.

Science tells us that Ireland has no snakes because it has been surrounded by water since the end of the last glacial period, preventing the serpents from slithering over; before that, it was blanketed in ice and too chilly for the cold-blooded creatures.  Regardless, Wednesday evening I will enjoy an Irish supper and later in the evening meet Harry on the deck, where we will light the fire pit, listen to, Oh Danny Boyand raise our glasses to Saint Patrick toasting him with a hearty,  “Sláinte!” 

Embrace the Challenge!