Now that we’ve seen the positive mindset compared to a conventional mindset, and how it fits into our stages of human and organization development, let’s look at why this positive mindset is so important.
Why would you try to think positive? Isn’t it safer to stay skeptical, or cynical about our current world and workplaces? You’ll save yourself the pain of false hope and disappointment. This might be true. I think that the reason why a positive outlook can trigger such a strong dismissive response from some people is their disillusion. They wish the world were better. Their hopes were betrayed and they don’t want to go through that process again. But, deep down, there’s still a spark of hope. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be triggered but feel indifferent. They wouldn’t call us “naive” and themselves “realistic”.
However, there is an abundance of research evidence that it is beneficial to adopt a positive mindset of possibilities, both for your personal wellbeing and for your team and organization’s performance. Even if you risk the occasional disappointment…
We can’t be exhaustive, but let’s look at some examples. I’d like to start with Martin Seligman, the father of the Positive Psychology movement. He found that optimists and pessimists have different explanatory styles. This counts for individuals as well as teams: their narrative style is a predictor of their success or failure.
Pessimism and optimism are thinking habits – that you can change. If you want to embody positive change, I recommend you check your self-talk.
Always and Never
Do you say things like: “My direct reports never listen to me.” Or: “I’m always the one who’s overlooked for a higher position.” “Always” and “never” are big words. What are the chances of something eternally happening in that very same way? Whenever you hear “always” and “never” enter the conversation, beware. Go back to reality and check the palpable facts.
A pessimistic mindset considers problems to be permanent while optimists consider them only temporary. If you lose a client, what do you tell yourself? “I always blow it because I’m not good at selling my services.” Thinking this way, what’s the point in trying to land another project? You’ll feel discouraged and insecure.
If your style is optimistic, you could think: “Too bad I lost this client. But I have learned and try to do things differently next time.”
Everyone in all situations
Pessimists also tend to generalize. If your team has failed to achieve an important performance target, you may conclude that your whole team consists of slackers. You may feel discouraged, thinking that your team will never earn that bonus and it’s all downhill from here.
Thinking in an optimistic style means staying specific. Correct: your team did not make this important target. But it was not your whole team and it was only this target – for the first time. You’re going to have a team meeting to learn from what happened and to brainstorm ideas to prevent this from happening again.
Optimists tend to believe that negative events are externally caused, and positive events internally. Pessimists think they caused a negative outcome – and positive things are just luck.
You lost a client. You can think: “I wasn’t good enough.” You’ll feel miserable.
Or you can think: “My client wasn’t ready for this commitment – I have seen the signs and hoped I could turn them around. What can I do differently next time?”
What intrigues me is that you often can’t tell which explanation is “true”. Reality is so infinitely more complex than we can grasp. So, if reality is as elusive as this, why not choose the explanation that is most empowering?If reality is elusive, why not choose the explanation that is most empowering? Click To Tweet
Optimists have a serious advantage
Seligman’s research is compelling. Optimists often have a stronger immune system and because they believe that their actions have a positive effect, they’re more likely to adhere to a health care regimen.
They even encounter fewer negative life events than pessimists. Researchers explain this by a pessimist’s passivity due to their conviction that they can’t change anything. It’s also easier to sustain friendships when you are optimistic.
Optimistic and pessimistic explanatory styles also influence performance. An optimistic sports team will always outperform the otherwise equal, pessimistic team, especially after a prior defeat.
Seligman also found that optimistic students achieve better grades in college than their scores predict. Optimism also helps people perform better at work because their optimistic explanatory style helps them cope with set-backs.
Check out, if you like: Martin Seligman – Learned Optimism, How to Change your Mind and Your Life. Seligman also wrote Auhtentic Happiness, and Flourish.
Of course, optimism isn’t exactly the same as the positive mindset but it’s part of it. Likewise, pessimism isn’t equal to a conventional mindset.
This is book post #31 – ME
Copyright © Marcella Bremer 2017. All rights reserved.
Leaders, employees, consultants, citizens – everyone can make a positive difference from any position, without needing permission or resources from others. This blog will help you see positive possibilities and (re)claim your positive agency. Unstuck yourself and engage others via your interaction and actions. Transform into a positive organization where people and performance thrive.
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