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Anchors and tugboats illustration: a swimmer thinking negative thoughts is pulled back by an anchor and thinking positive thoughts is pulled forward by a tug. Confused fish look on.

Anchors and tugboats

Anchors and tugboats. One holds you back, and one pulls you forward.

Negativity can act like an anchor holding you back, narrowing your focus and restricting your potential.

Positivity, by contrast, acts like a tugboat pulling you forward. It's expansive. It opens us up to the opportunity we have, gratitude or joy.

I heard this analogy from sports psychologist Justin Ross. It's a curious thing, he points out, that we don't actively learn how we should talk to ourselves; it just happens. If you're out running and things get tough, or if you're having a hard time at work or as a parent, our self-talk starts about how things are going and how we got here. But rarely do we consciously think about how we should talk to ourselves. To get to positivity from a place of negativity, he says, the first step is awareness and noticing the negativity anchoring us down. Only then can we think about transforming the negative thoughts into positive ones and starting to feel the pull of the tugboat.

This example is sports psychology, but it applies throughout our lives.

Justin discusses this from 29:40 in the Löw Tide Boyz podcast episode 193.

Also see swimrun, the fun scale

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