Two friends and I recently decided that running a race together would be fun. After we finished the race, we were talking about the experience and we all agreed that during the race, we each wondered at least once or twice why we do things like that to ourselves. Yet we all pushed through and finished. That led us to talk about what we use to motivate ourselves to keep running and to push through tough parts.
Reflecting on that discussion, I realize that even though each of us had a different source of motivation (for one it was good music, for one it was picturing the finish line, and for one it was the challenge of catching up to and passing anyone up ahead), we each used positive self talk to capitalize on that motivation. What's more important is the reason why each of us found a motivator. We felt like we deserved to finish that race. And we knew no one could make it happen but ourselves. I don't mean this as in, "I deserve this so give me a win." It was more of, "I deserve this, and am worthy of it so I'm going to work for it and try my best to succeed."
I have heard, and unfortunately witnessed, that Alpena has a bit of an issue with self-esteem. Although it appears to be improving, there are people who live here who say things like, "Alpena will never be that," or, "Alpena will never have one of those." What these people are really saying is, "Alpena doesn't deserve that," or, "We aren't worthy of that." That attitude makes me very sad. If we feel like we don't deserve something then of course we don't deserve it. If we, as a community, do not have positive self-talk, then where will that get us? We certainly won't be motivated to work toward bigger goals. If my friends and I didn't feel like we deserved to finish our race, would we have found our motivation to push ourselves like we did? Probably not.
What does positive self talk sound like? When I run it might be something like (yes I really do this), "You can do this! There isn't that much more to go, in fact you can probably sprint to that sign and then there's really not much left. And this inspirational song that's on is the perfect one to push you there - you ARE a firework (thank you Katy Perry) - go, run!" Chances are I would be happy with my results in that race and would then be interested in improving for the next one. That's what's so great about a positive attitude; it motivates you to do more. For our community, what might positive talk sound like?
Practice some positive community-talk with me. Even if you already do it, you can never have enough. Drive or walk around and see how many positive things you can say about your community. View your community like you are seeing it for the first time. Do you see it differently? Now share some of the positive things you see with others. Tell the next person you talk to something positive about your community. How does that feel?
Want to experience more? Participate in the Hometown Tour. This program originally was designed for front-line employees to learn more about the "hot spots" of Alpena so they could better serve tourists. The organizers of the program recognize that every time someone asks, "What is there to do here?" and receive the answer, "There's nothing to do here," a huge injustice is done to Alpena's economy. This tour is one of my favorite days because it is filled with people who believe in and like their community, and want the area to thrive. It is refreshing to be around people who feel that way about Alpena and know Alpena deserves the best, and that visitors to Alpena deserve the best.
Maybe you are reading this thinking, "Oh that poor nave Jackie. Someday she will learn that Alpena will never have the best. Her positive self talk will eventually deflate." But I don't believe that. I believe positive talk is contagious. Things don't always work out as planned but it is a lot easier to try again and move forward when you choose a positive approach and believe in yourself and your community. I am going to continue to believe Alpena deserves to be a strong competitor in the race. Believing we deserve a positive future is a great first step toward action that gives us a positive future.
Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs biweekly on Tuesdays.