I spent the last four days in Nashville at a software conference. I don’t get too many opportunities to travel or attend conferences, so this was special.
I enjoyed the conference theme, workshops and the city life, but the real learning came from stepping outside of my life and looking at things with fresh eyes.
I traveled with a work colleague and we get along well enough to share a hotel room for three nights without feeling awkward. She is a peaceful person to hang around with everyday. I was immediately filled with an inner sense of peace from the moment we boarded the plane. That was part of what made the trip enjoyable.
The real eye-opener was the friendly atmosphere that surrounded us. Reflecting back last evening I realized that not one person on this trip shared any negative energy. From our seat mate who wrestled our carry-on luggage into the overhead rack and retrieved it when we landed, without prompting, to the friendly retired army reserve gentleman who shoved my bag into the tiny compartment, while teasing me about having seven pairs of cowboy boots stowed in the bag ( I only had one), the trip was packed with joy-filled people.
The hotel staff was genuinely friendly and helpful. The restaurants we ate at took extra care with our order, and served with a smile. People were eager to assist both in the conference and around the city.
And the cumulative effect of being exposed to a steady diet of happy, joy-filled people?
My own attitude changed. I smiled more. I was more engaged with people, and initiated conversations. My tense shoulders receded from my ears to where they belong. My breathing was calm, and I was more relaxed..
So what was so different? I realized it wasn’t the change of scenery, it was my own change of heart. I was stuck in a stew of negative thoughts, and in close contact with cynical folks who love to point out the negative in every situation.
As I slowly re-entered my own world yesterday, I stayed detached, observing the dynamic of my interactions with the people who inhabit my small space. I listened with new ears, tuned to the negative frequency of comments and commentary. I easily slipped back into the role of the cynic, and was saddened to hear the negative babble that rolled off my tongue. So, I decided to change the culture of my own environment by changing my behavior.
It’s hard to break a bad habit, but even harder to train yourself not to react to the negativity that surrounds you. I cannot change anyone else’s behavior, but I can change my reaction. That’s going to be my homework for the next few months. To learn to shrug my shoulders and to neutralize the negative energy around me.
Who knows? Maybe the “Negative Nellies” will be transformed as well.