My default view of life is to see problems and beat myself up for my mistakes. When she was very young our daughter learned to play the violin by the Suzuki method which relies heavily on the importance of listening to excellence and constructive self-assessment. Suzuki wanted students to learn music the same way they learned language, by kindness with positive reinforcement rather than by negative criticism. Following playing a piece to the teacher, a student was required to notice and comment on three things they had done well and only then to notice one thing they could fix for next time. It was a ratio of 3:1. Yes, I listened to many painful notes of a beginner musician, but I also learned that we need powerful reinforcement in noticing and claiming what we and others do well because we are experts in blame and shame and the tape inside our heads plays the sorry litany of our deficiencies all too often.
The WSJ published an article on December 28th For the New Year, Say No to Negativity, on the effects of negative thinking and the imbalance between hopeful positive thinking on our minds and lives. Perhaps this imbalance is hardwired into us as a survival skill keeping us aware of external threats and danger. Research shows that viewing negative images and receiving negative criticism produces a much stronger electrical current in the brain than that of seeing positive images. There have been many recent articles and research around the effects of seeing negative images or having negative thoughts and the importance of intentionally focusing on an overall long-term bigger more balanced picture. For emotional balance it was found that “it takes four good things to overcome one bad thing.” Suzuki had the right idea and not only was teaching students to be musicians but giving them an important life skill.
John O’Donohue commenting on the how we view life writes that a vision and outlook on the world that is based in love “does not become entangled in the agenda of power, seduction, opposition or complicity. … It rises above the pathetic arithmetic of blame and judgement.” I’m more than ready to rise above blame and judgement to a more balanced outlook. This New Year I will be practicing having a vision of kindness and love for the world and a 4:1 ratio of positive thinking with a reset on my internal barometer.
 John O’ Donohue. Anam Ćara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom. HarperCollins. NY. 1997