A New Year of Positive Thinking
Having a positive workplace doesn’t mean waking up to your alarm clock playing Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” song every morning, nor does it mean greeting your colleagues with a “welcome to Disneyworld!” smile every day. This is not always perceived positive, and in fact, it can be downright annoying. However, when your work culture isn’t positive, it has a direct affect on your physical and emotional life. Cultivating a positive workplace requires first understanding that without it, work becomes meaningless, motivation drops and engagement disappears.
Positivity allows for creativity, big picture thinking and openness to new ideas, which leads to a successful organization.
I first learned about positive thinking as a child from my father who created a very special bedtime ritual (which I’ve adopted with my girls years later). Every night, my father would ask me “Noa, what kind of dream would you like to have tonight?” In most cases, my answer was to live in a candy store! At that point, my dad would pretend that there was an invisible zipper on my forehead which he would slowly unzip, and whisper my dream to my subconscious. Then he would hurry to zip up the invisible zipper so the dream wouldn’t escape and I would close my eyes and immediately immerse myself in thoughts of my candy store and everything that I get to do there and then I would fall into a sweet sleep.
So what do dreams of endless candy have to do with having a positive mindset at work? I learned that being able to “choose” my dreams as a child developed into having the ability to choose my thoughts as well as my moods as an adult. Positivity is, in fact, both a mindset and a skillset. We can all cultivate positivity through the choices we make, the perspectives we choose, the behaviors we engage in, the conversations we have, as well as those who choose not to engage in.
While it is much easier to have a positive outlook when times are good, it’s even more important to focus on positive thinking when things go wrong. Many of us have serious and urgent problems. We experience disappointments, heartaches, rejections, and stress on a daily basis. While we don’t want to pretend that our problems aren’t real , “sugar coat” them or withdraw into denial, we can still approach solutions in a positive manner.
Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness explains that stress is an inevitable part of work. It can be obstacle to growth but it can also be the fuel for it.
His suggestion to working stress in a positive manner is to make a list of all the stresses you’re under and place them in two groups – the ones you can control (unfinished tasks, inbox) and those you can’t control (the stock market, politics in Iran). You then are being asked to choose one stress that you can control and come up with a small, concrete step you can take to reduce it. This is what signals your brain to shift to a positive, productive mind-set.
Most people believe that success preceded happiness. “Once we reach our campaign target, then I’ll be happy”, or “Once I lose 10 pounds, then I’ll be happy”. However success is a moving target – as soon as we hit our target, we raise it again and the happiness that results from success is gone.
Similarly to training our muscles at the gym, recent research on neuroplasticity, shows that it is not so different than training our brain to be more positive.
Here are a few things that we all can do each day to help our brain cultivate more positivity in our work and life:
- Writing down three things we are grateful for.
- Acknowledging someone else for doing/being good.
- Exercise for 10-30 minutes.
- Meditate anywhere for two minutes.
- Describe in a journal the most meaningful experience of the past 24 hours in a journal.
Even by choosing one of the above as a new habit and repeat it for three weeks, will show improvement in your levels of positive and engagement.
Growing up in the 1970s, neither my dad or I knew anything about “positive psychology” and the “happiness factor”, but somehow, we knew how to apply these principles.
As you are gearing up for a new day at work, remember that you can’t have a positive work environment with a negative mind. Training your brain to look for the positive outcomes in each situation and your positive contribution to taking one step towards solution will help you enormously in cultivating a positive day.