"Wolf Stories"

Sunday we took a hike to look for wolf paw prints, as there was a story going around that a wolf might be in the area. 

However, we didn't see anything but beauty.

Hopefully, the wolves will stay in their designated areas where they are protected. As with everything in the world, wolves have a place, but not with someone's livestock. Wolf livestock depredation is terrible; they do not kill but gut animals, eating them alive, sometimes abandoning them mid-chew to go after more. Again, Wolves have their place, but not with someone's livestock.

But this "wolf story" got me thinking - a parallel of sorts. I was recently asked "How in the world do you keep such an upbeat attitude in life when there are so many people who discourage others?

Well...it comes with practice! Let's start with tackling a few questions first.

Have you ever wanted to attempt something new, or tackle a certain goal and then hear negative stories? You know, the "Wolf is in the woods and out to get you, beware!" stories from people?  It can put fear into your mind, and you cannot do what you want to do. You end up frozen, with no opportunity to grow, because you are scared to fail. It is downright awful, isn't it?

First of all, let's call these "wolf stories" by its proper name; discouragement.

Letting "wolf stories" aka discouragement into my life has affected me in more ways than I can count. And I'm sure it has happened to you. Discouragement is the quickest way to stop someone from achieving their goals. It can even affect your personality. Unfortunately, people discourage people every day; sometimes without even knowing. Jealousy, greed, envy, fear, fear of their own failure is usually what motivates people to use discouragement on others.

Here are some prime examples of discouraging answers most everyone has heard one time or another. I'm sure you could add to the list!

   When you tell someone your plans-

               "That's not the way we did it & we are pretty successful."

              "Really? You want to do ____? It's already been done."

              "Must be nice having free time."


    When you ask someone questions-

             "Oh, I wouldn't know. I NEVER had a problem with that."

             "Well, that's not important. You don't need to know."

             "You should know that already!"

    When asked to share your hardship-

                "Oh, that's all? You'll figure it out eventually."

               "That's not a problem, let me tell you someone else's problem/gossip."

               "Maybe you should quit - it sounds too difficult for you."

So what can we do to make sure discouragement doesn't eat us alive, moving on to destroy our hopes and dreams? I learned that the best prevention for discouragement is to be prepared. When you are prepared, you recognize and can deflect negativity from your life using positivity. 

Here are three main points that anyone should consider when dealing with discouragement-

1.  Recognize Discouragement is up to no good. 

First recognize that discouragement is not a tool. It is a weapon. You'll recognize it by its ability to destroy. It does not inform you, it negates you. Although people may think they mean well, the use of discouragement to change others or their behavior is manipulative.  

When someone discourages you, pay attention; it's really all about themselves, and how they feel.

We can recognize the use of discouragement by simply asking ourselves two questions; what does this person really want, and what is this person feeling? If someone needs to tear someone down in order to build themselves up, using discouragement, they do not have confidence in themselves; they are fearful.  They need confidence in THEIR lives. You do not build walls around strengths.  Remember that this negativity is not about you, it is about their issue.

2. Discouragement tries to sneak into your life. 

Being human, we have a tendency to respond quicker to negative reinforcement than positive. That fight or flight response kicks in and positive reinforcement is forgotten for the moment, sometimes forever.  We can turn a poor situation into a worse one if we react negatively ourselves.

In order to be prepared to block discouragement's negativity, we need to have positives in our thought process. 

Let's take this answer for example- "Must be nice having free time." Although this is a negative comment to hear, usually used in a passive-aggressive situation, you can actually answer back with three positive answers - "Yes, I am blessed/lucky to have these plans in mind. This is what life is about, taking time out to do good things. We are going to make the best of this time because it will be good for the future."  If a person chooses once again to answer with discouragement, they begin to recognize they are putting themselves into a position of weakness - arguing with no basis. They want you to carry that burden. Giving a positive response negates that.

Even when someone is attempting to tear you down to make themselves feel good, you can deflect the negative with a positive. Here is another example-  "That's not the way we did it, and we are pretty successful." What would my positive response be?  "That's fantastic you are successful! Since I cannot be exactly like you, I'm working on a different method/plan. I believe everything in life is a learning opportunity, and hope to glean so much by the journey, just like you did."  Acknowledging someone's accomplishments in a positive light is a good way to be proactive in your response. Why would anyone want to argue against their own positive accomplishments? 

Here's the key; thinking and responding positively is a learned trait. It's habitually looking for the good, even inside yourself. Most importantly, it is what makes us survivors, not victims. And it can only be achieved by practicing it. Today is a good day to start!

 3. Discouragement is always prowling. 

Sometimes there will be moments where you will recognize discouragement, and you may not be up to the task. It's okay for you to deflect the conversation.

For example- "Maybe you should quit - it sounds too difficult for you." My response? "It does sound difficult, doesn't it? Is there something that you have done that was really difficult, and you managed to overcome it? It sounds like someone can learn from you!" 

Or another example- "Oh, I wouldn't know. I NEVER had a problem with that."  My response would be "That's great! You must have some wonderful coping skills, do you mind sharing?"

As you can see, when I'm not up to the task in responding to a discouraging statement, I just put that puppy right back onto their lap by answering with a question. Everyone loves talking about themselves and their achievements; after all, it's positive thinking, and that feels good! It's that building of confidence. And it's not a bad thing to do for others; on the contrary, you are building people up, lessening the chance they will turn back to using discouragement as their default answers.

Sometimes, though, there will be times where it's just best to avoid the "woods" altogether.  Not talking to a specific person who keeps discouraging you, or avoiding a specific event where there will be a group of discouraging people is the best bet in those instances.  Illness, losses, even just being tired can make us less able to think clearly. We want to be proactive, not reactive, leaving positivity in our path. It's okay to pull back in those circumstances when you are not able to- sometimes I have even walked away from conversations in mid-discouragement giving an excuse of a just remembered errand to do, as I wasn't up to hearing their "wolf stories" aka discouragement. It's okay. We all need to heal at times. Just don't make it your default. 

Remember, the more you practice positive thinking, the more you become a survivor and not a victim of hit and run discouragements.

Discouragement will always be around. The ways we can keep it in its place are numerous, but positivity is the key. Being able to recognize discouragement for what it is, a weakness, is very important and how much better for the world if we all send it back to its place by using a little positivity.  My years as a Union President, a Lobbyist, along with working for a small town Police Department, numerous community volunteer positions and including the past 17 years in Forestry have taught me so many things; most importantly being positive is always good when accomplishing tasks as an individual, or as a group.  For everyone involved, including ourselves.  

So don't let anyone tell you any wolf stories this week; 
you chase that big bad wolf right back home!

Remember, it's all in the attitude...

or you can tell them "Feral" sent you!



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