After graduating from the University of Southern California with a degree in Economics, I decided to pursue a career in commercial real estate investment sales where I would experience one of the most challenging times of my life. “You need to be a shark to succeed in this business” and “Only one out of ten people make it beyond a year,” were among some of the comments meant to set my expectations of the road ahead. I soon learned the most difficult and single most important task in the business is cold calling. Hours of drudging effort were spent making seventy five to one hundred calls every single day. It takes an enormous amount of rejection to get even a remotely interested client, and can take years for some.
In just a few months, the amount of rejection started to have a serious impact on my confidence and mental health. Automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) started to play in my mind on repeat, I became depressed, and questioned if I was cut out for this. In an effort to pull myself out of this dark hole, I found myself desperately searching for motivation, hopefulness, and positive reinforcement. I still wanted to prove that I had the skills and tenacity to succeed, so I started researching ways to break up the negative patterns that were running my life. As I learned more around the subject, I knew I had to make a change fast. Automatic negative thoughts can accelerate the brain’s aging process, reduce the feel-good chemicals serotonin and dopamine, increase your risk of neurodegenerative diseases, slow the production of a protein called BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) required to form new brain cells, shrink the size of the brain and enlarge the amygdala, which is the brain’s fear center.
It sounds cliché to say there is power in “positive thinking”. It isn’t that simple, but there is neuroscience backing this practice and numerous empirical studies that show mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy are effective at reducing negative thought patterns (Frewen et al., 2008). In the book, “Words Can Change Your Brain”, Neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Newberg and communications expert Mark Robert Waldman state, “By holding a positive and optimistic [word] in your mind, you stimulate frontal lobe activity. This area includes specific language centers that connect directly to the motor cortex responsible for moving you into action. And as our research has shown, the longer you concentrate on positive words, the more you begin to affect other areas of the brain. Functions in the parietal lobe start to change, which changes your perception of yourself and the people you interact with. A positive view of yourself will bias you toward seeing the good in others, whereas a negative self-image will include you toward suspicion and doubt. Over time the structure of your thalamus will also change in response to your conscious words, thoughts, and feelings, and we believe that the thalamic changes affect the way in which you perceive reality.” In summary, identifying negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones is the basis of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is one of the most effective tools used today.
This understanding was the catalyst that allowed me to transform my approach and become successful in the retail investment sales business for the next seven years. As a new morning ritual, I would find a motivational quote or affirmation, write it down on chalkboards, then place it on my nightstand, mirror, door, near the coffee machine, at my desk, and in my car. The repetitious visualization of positive words would challenge the unhealthy thoughts to form new neural pathways. Not only did I find more confidence in my business, I was happier, my relationships with family and friends improved, and my attitude towards everyday life became more positive.
I knew there was a better way to connect with and share the power of words that inspired the change in my thoughts and behavior. By incorporating technology and design, we created Presence, a display and service where inspiration is delivered right into your space to improve thoughts and change lives. Let Presence set the stage for your mind everyday.
-Ashley Saye, Co-Founder & Chief Inspiration Officer