One of my many mentors once said to me, life is 50-50.
My response was “what do you mean?”
She said “no matter where you are in life, no matter how well things are going, you are always going to have 50% negative and 50% positive emotion”.
I considered that to be a pretty dismal outlook.
I grasped the concept intellectually for a long time but couldn’t actually embody it. Probably because A. I didn’t want to; and B. I thought I was special and that I could easily push that ratio to at least 80 positive : 20 negative.
Yet when I reflected on my past behaviour, particularly through my single, foot-loose and fancy-free 20s, my pattern was to always move onto the next thing provided it was more exciting than the last.
To paint the picture more accurately, this wasn’t just ‘moving on’. This was completely uprooting my life and starting fresh – new home, new location, new job, new industry and sometimes an entirely new country.
I repeated this pattern over and over. It took me to work internationally - all across the UK and Europe, in elite level sport. It gave me the courage to leave the small town I grew up in and explore new places. It also took me to live in multiple cities across the country.
Amongst all of that were the different industries that I was employed in and a student in along the way.
I loved living my life like that. I loved the variety and not knowing where I was going to be at the end of a year or what was around the corner. It kept me open to possibilities and opportunities.
I was completely the opposite of tied down. I felt little responsibility for anything except being able to earn money to do whatever I wanted to do and feed myself.
What a perfect way to live.
I knew it wasn’t going to last forever and I knew I wanted a family and that that would require roots. So while I lived it, I loved it.
I started my business to give me some resemblance of freedom and independence. In the early days it was tough and I found myself looking for every nearest exit – blame, denial, justification. I wanted to pick back up and run away but this time, I couldn’t. So I found a mentor and she told me this.
Until I sat reflecting on my past, I’d always put it down to craving variety and embracing a diverse range of experiences.
But what I soon realised was that I had been projecting only positivity in the future, while working hard at moving away from things causing me pain and discomfort. I continually told myself “I’ll be happy when…”
And no I’ve have enough experiences to realise while I have some wonderful memories and a great bank of enriching and fulfilling experiences, there was always negative emotion present within them as well. There was always the light and the dark. The angst and the elation, the sadness and the happiness, the loneliness and the satisfaction, the tension of the negative emotion which was then released by the positive.
Before those events had happened, I had projected it was all going to be positive and light, tension-free. That was what I was working toward but if I’d known ahead of time that there was always going to be negative as well… that there had to be the negative as well, would I still have chased change as much as I did?
The negative was what drove me forward - to move away from it – toward and in search of “something better” or “greener grass” or “100% positive”.
The 50% positive balanced by 50% negative has been a really powerful realisation for a few reasons.
1. Nobody is exempt from negative emotions
The first is that I have definitely, admittedly, looked at people who seem to have a lot of money and have it all together and I’ve wanted the same. And I have made a lot of excuses as to how they have what they have. This 50/50 has provided the insight that those people have all suffered negative as much as positive as well. Nobody is exempt and having a lot of money, luxury, status, power, prestige or fancy “stuff” doesn’t mean a life of only 100% positive emotion.
2. Chasing 100% positive emotions will hold you back from personal expansion
The second realisation and epiphany I’ve had, is that while I used to project positive, that sets me up (in some ways) for failure.
Why? Because I envisage a sense of emotion at that time in the future when I reach that goal, that feels like me sitting in the sun by a beautiful pool in Bali with a cocktail. But when I get there, the fact that I don’t feel 100% positivity means the goal doesn’t feel worth it. Or that the goal hasn’t been achieved in its entirety and therefore I need a new goal.
I failed to recognise that the only reason sitting by the pool with a cocktail, a book and my phone in a country where I couldn’t be reached felt so damn good was because I knew how hard I’d worked, and the things I’d gone through, to have that reprieve. Without the dark we wouldn’t recognise the light.
3. By projecting and anticipating negative emotions, you accept and lean-in
Thirdly, maybe it’s not a bad thing to project some levels of negativity. Maybe instead of avoiding the negativity and shutting it out, maybe choosing to embrace it instead will bring more timely results. Even welcome those negative feelings.
This is a theory I have never really heard of before. I’ve heard of embracing discomfort and accepting fear but maybe, just maybe, by projecting higher level problems that you actually want to have means the level of success you’ve met at that time will be worth the problems (causing the negative emotion) you’re experiencing? Because if you don’t have that level of success you’re not going to have that level of problem.
So maybe projecting a problem that you know you can solve is the ultimate form of backing yourself, self-acceptance along the way? By not only accepting but rather anticipating the 50-50, your decisions to withstand any discomfort in order to achieve what you want suddenly seems like less of a big deal. Having the courage to try things and projecting failure sets yourself up with new levels of expectation which often leads to greater success. If there’s already the guarantee of 50-50, actively projecting that removes the control we often try to have to make it all rainbows and butterflies when we arrive out our destination.
We see this often with business owners who set new financial targets. “When we have 3 times the revenue, we’ll have more money and more cash flow which will give us greater opportunities and magically we’ll have more time, more productive staff and things will be better and I’ll be more relaxed”. When they get there, they have a melt-down because they haven’t managed their expectations properly and they find they’re busier than ever, the staff they have are relying on them even more than before, an influx of new clients means higher demands and it wasn’t something external to themselves that solved all their problems.
It’s the same when you speak to people who have the luxury items and they say “money doesn’t buy your happiness”. It’s something only people with money seem to say, but the point is that the work to feel happy and positive and fulfilled is internal. It can’t be purchased. It’s the acceptance of the 50-50 the whole way through and the balance you need to feel complete.
So what are you projecting in your future?
Are you in the dark, dark tunnel and you can’t see where it’s going to end?
How are your expectations? Too high? Unrealistic? Or is there there’s a little glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel?
And in that light at the end of the tunnel, once you get there, what are the new problems that you can expect to see? What will show-up in your life and your business?
What are some of the problems you wish you had now because when you have those problems, it will mean greater levels of success you have achieved?
Rhiannon is The 3x Sales Coach who works with business owners and sales representatives to 3x their sales within 6 months to:
1. Grow your business and get time back for the things you care about
2. Have the influence and impact you dreamed about when you started
3. Focus on giving your clients an enriched and empowered life – which can be genuinely like yours
When you grow, so do your results and so does the impact you can have.