Lessons from Leaders: #3 Positivity

Positivity is key

 

A positive mental attitude isn’t a new thing.  Neither should it be dismissed as a trend or “woke” or psycho-babble!  What is changing is our understanding of the psychology and power of mental fortitude.

I was introduced to positivity without seeking it out.  It’s only when I reflect back that I understand I was being taught the importance of positivity.

I was fortunate enough to go on a course, led by Dr William Holden who is the chairman of the automotive insight company Sewells.

At the time, my boss was leaving, so I got to go on the course in his place as a bit of a bonus. The course talked a lot about positivity, attitude, mindset and visualization which at the time I thought were a bit far-fetched as a 24-year-old.

I definitely didn’t realise it would have a fundamental effect on me in terms of starting to look for positives even though I wasn’t really aware that was what I was doing.

Gung-Ho!

It was around twenty years ago that I read the book “Gung Ho!” when I really started to appreciate how positivity can work to help you enjoy your daily life, more so than I had previously imagined.

Gung-Ho! by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles focuses on 3 main principles:

  • The Spirit of the Squirrel – Doing work worthwhile.
  • The Way of the Beaver – Be in control of achieving your goals, challenges, and values.
  • The Gift of the Goose – Cheer each other on.

The thing that stuck in my mind the most after I had first read this book was the idea that if you “find a job you love to do then you’ll never have to work again”. But the environment you are in makes a huge difference.

Is your working environment a heliotropic one? Read my previous instalment in this series to learn more about that here.

If I’ve ever come to that point in a job where I hate Mondays and my soul leaves my body as I enter the office, I’ve very quickly left. As a job you don’t enjoy makes it so much harder.

Something important to remember is to ask yourself “do you have the right attitude to flourish within your environment?”.

Attitude always informs your altitude in life, so your attitude will determine how high you rise. That applies in both your home and work life.

Changing your mindset.

But the first time I consciously manipulated my own positivity and attitude was 20 years ago was when I decided I wanted to make myself really look forward to Mondays.

I guess like most people, I used to really look forward to the weekends. A Friday night out, Saturday day out with the family, followed by a roast on Sunday.

What I remember doing was sitting down and writing a list about everything that was good about Monday mornings.

What I came to find was a whole host of things I didn’t expect like these:

  1. Monday mornings are good because I get to tell people what I’ve been up to at the weekend. – You get to enjoy your weekend all over again when you share it with your colleagues on a Monday.
  2. It’s the start of a new week, so you can have new goals and plans for the week ready and lined up. – I actually do mine on a Sunday night, so that when I wake up on a Monday morning, I’m in a good place to begin the week.
  3. I like the people I work with, so seeing them and enjoying their company is something I look forward to!
  4. Monday tea is usually Sunday roast leftovers so that’s always great!

 

There’s always going to be something we like about Monday’s, so they shouldn’t be something we dread, they should be something we look forward to.

I’m not saying that looking forward to Monday, more than the weekends, is great for your work/life balance because it definitely tips mine slightly over the edge to too much work, but I really do believe that finding a job you love means you’ll never feel like Mondays are hard work.

Something I firmly believe in is a productivity planner. At the end of every day, I plan my key tasks for the following day. Some of that is diary led, for example, a particular meeting or appointment you may have. But others are priority led, working out your frogs and putting them at the top of your to-do list is crucial.

Writing them down also gives you the opportunity to look back at what you have achieved, which makes you feel productive and gives you a boost of motivation. It can also teach you where you are struggling and committing to too many things, so you should organise your time more effectively.

In addition to a productivity planner, I also have a gratitude diary. Before bed, I write down everything I am most grateful for that day. I’m going to focus more on gratitude in a later blog in this series, but gratitude really gives you a chance to focus on how lucky you are.

The Happiness Advantage.

A book I found particularly helpful with the idea of positivity was by Shawn Achor.

It covers two basic lessons. First is the view that we are brought up with the notion that we should work hard, which will make us successful and that will make us happy.

But he argues that we should first focus on happiness, so we can enjoy our work, which will in turn make us successful. I agree with his thoughts 100%.

Secondly, he talks about “neuroplasticity”, which I find fascinating.

This is the idea that if you learn something new, and really practice it, you can strengthen the neural pathways and synapses between your brain and create new neural pathways.

If you have ever done any intense studying or are learning a new skill, you’ve probably had that feeling that your head is melting at some point or have had a headache afterwards. That’s neuroplasticity, your brain strengthening and learning new things.

This theory was proven by studies done on taxi drivers who were required to take the knowledge test. Their brains hyperdeveloped in the area that deals with maps and navigation.

We all have the ability to reshape our brains, and that’s where the real strength in positivity comes from, particularly when we are faced with challenging circumstances.

Positivity enables you to not only feel better about things but guarantees you can find a way out of a situation.

Instead of seeing a problem and jumping into a well of misery, you see a problem and your brains thinks “well I’m sure we can find a way around this”.

Summary

Things I advocate are sharing positive thoughts with other people on a daily basis. Start by saying you only have to share 3 positives and most people will start with 3, but over time they will add a fourth, a fifth and a sixth positive! All because they are in that positive mindset. They start to see positives where they wouldn’t find them before.

A positive mindset allows us to face challenges, take full advantage of our opportunities and improves our all-round mental health!

 

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