Guilty as charged: Tetris prisoner

Do you have a friend who is always complaining? A co-worker who is always predicting a failure of a meeting before it even started no matter what the circumstances? The soup is cold and never the steak is juicy. The glass is always half-empty and never half-full. The boss who is always focusing on the weakness in a performance review and very rarely the strength. Sounds familiar? Maybe you’re even one of them? Or you are a CFO, COO, GC, or someone with accountancy, audit, legal background, it is probable that you are guilty of the negative Tetris effect. I was definitely guilty as charged but happily no longer so! I have released myself from my mental negative Tetris prison.

If you’ve played Tetris before, you will know that the mental repetitions cause you to see Tetris shapes even when you are not playing the game. When we repeat something overtime, we develop a cognitive pattern which decreases our overall success rates, this is negative Tetris effect. In my legal training, I was trained to look for flaws. As legal counsel, my job requires me to look for risks or pitfalls so I can manage them, just like tax auditors would be scanning tax returns for errors.

The issue began when I started to “internalise’ this Tetris effect and brought it home with me. My brain developed a pattern to always scan for the negative.

Lawyers really are so susceptible… I know lawyers who find themselves ‘disposing’ their children at home. Worrying right?! Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for my legal training and mindset – I needed them to do my job. The problem was I did not manage to ‘compartmentalise’ my abilities and over time, my mindset turned progressively pessimistic.

In retrospect, I can honestly say, I really was not trying to be a difficult and demanding boss or lawyer, my brain was just so good at scanning for negatives from the environment, it’s been trained like this ever since university.

I am lucky because I woke up and knew something was just not right and I did something about it. The change will not happen overnight, as with developing any new habit, just practice, practice and more practice to scale up positive vibes to a critical mass. But it is totally possible because I am a living proof of it! And for the critics of out there, I am not saying to run your work or personal life wearing rose glasses either: for unrealistic optimism is another extreme. I am taking the middle way and I see the world through my my rose-tinted lenses with realistic optimism. After all, we create our own reality and our experience is what we agree to attend to.

The good news is the Tetris effect can go either way : positive or negative. So I started to train my mind to harness on the positive Tetris effect.

Here is my success roadmap, tried and tested over many years of my journey. Obviously methods only work if you see the value in the purpose and commit to it. It is important to understand that your negative pattern is a result of the Tetris effect, don’t personalise it. Mentally commit to allow for Tetris Effect to work for you, not against you i.e. we are developing positive Tetris effect.

1) Meditate: Meditation is key to cultivate self-awareness so you can recognise your pattern and bring yourself back to true north when the river takes you south. To be in the present helps your silent witness see more clearly and your grip to past conditioning will start to loosen up.

2) Feel good: There are so much stuff out there on how to develop positive habits. For me, it’s more about why and less about how/what. In a nutshell, it is all about FEELING good because what you feel you attract. So do what you need to do to feel good from one moment to another. One moment better than the previous moment. When you feel good, you will attract more goodness to you, and soon the positive snowball will take a life of its own. The key is we are resetting our mindset. Once our mindset is reset, you will act and speak spontaneously and effortlessly according to your state of mind, you will just flow with the good vibes.

3) Be Grateful: Wake up every morning and say thanks for three things in your life! I wake every morning feeling so grateful to feel my beating heart, a roof over my head and smelling coffee! Just small things, does not have to be big things.

4) Be Kind: Be kind, friendly and take it easy on YOU and you will naturally be easy and kind to others. Random acts of kindness help too. Smile big at a stranger! Wish the taxi driver good business!

5) Be Smart: Remove yourself from toxic, negative people/environment. We need to be aware of the faces and places we are hanging out with. Granted there are situations you may be stuck with (e.g work meeting) but to the extent possible, definitely take early exit from situations which are depleting or draining your good vibes! Remember there is no compromise when it comes to feeling good.


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