Habit 3 from the 12 Habits of Resilient + Thriving People
Each week for 12 weeks, I’ll blog about one habit. And if you feel inclined, you can road test it for yourself. Habit 3 is about Thinking Positively.
Habit 3: Think positively
Firstly, it feels good to think positively. Secondly, it broadens the span of possibilities available to you. If you can imagine for a moment a challenging scenario you have faced in the past. A negative view of the potential outcome will quickly shut down ideas and could lead to avoidance, worry, stress, fatigue, and illness. A positive view will open up possibilities that could lead to focus, strength, endurance, and engagement. Resilient people perceive these challenging scenarios as a temporary state of affairs.
“Every day has happiness. Even a simple cup of hot tea can bring a moment of sheer joy into your day.” That’s the title of my private blog. No one sees it except me (and my husband checks it out occasionally). I started it at a time when I was feeling down and having self-doubts.
I was in the process of looking for my next role but I was often the bridesmaid, with the other candidate scoring the highest points in the final shoot-out too many times. My in-laws and my own parents began suffering the ravages of time which was emotionally difficult, and another very close member of my family was experiencing stress/anxiety causing health issues that were becoming concerning. My husband’s role was made redundant (outsourced) which encouraged my obsessive/worrying thoughts to go into overdrive. Stress levels? High alert.
I had to do something.
I was completing a six month course on positive psychology (yes, I know!) so I decided I was going to be the perfect test bunny. The course, like many positive psychology books and research papers, discusses a number of techniques including:
- Detecting when you have a negative thought and challenge it. Think of a positive alternative and replace the negative thought.
- Write down the positive experiences you have throughout the day. Keep a journal.
- Practise gratitude. Keep a gratitude journal.
- Finding the good within the good. Savouring that moment or thing that is good and really enjoying it.
- Be kind to others. Random acts of kindness.
- Exercise outdoors. Be with nature.
- Cultivate strong social connections. Gets the oxytocin flowing.
There are many more.
I decided to do something tangible. Each day I would take a photo of something that was positive, maybe make a note alongside it, maybe not.
The photos were captured within an App so I could revisit the “positive moments” and process them again in my thoughts in order to get that little positive more etched in my memory. Perfect. I could be sitting on the bus on the way to another job interview, open the App and receive an injection of positives.
Initially, I had to go searching for this positive stuff. Wearing those negative-tinted spectacles meant I wasn’t seeing the roses very clearly, I was still only seeing the thorns. I didn’t give up though and pressed on with my self-experiment and after a couple of weeks something happened.
I started to see the positives. I started to think more positively. I was snapping those positives with my phone like Quick Draw McGraw. They were everywhere.
I found positive me again. I knew she was there somewhere.
Thinking positively is a habit that needs cultivating. It’s not a personality trait that’s only handed out to a few. It’s available to all of us. Thinking positively makes you feel happier, more confident, more forgiving, less stressed, more connected … the list goes on. So if you’re languishing, feeling a bit “is that it?”, or just in need of a few more smile wrinkles, then put on your own test bunny suit.
Positivity also means higher business performance. In Barbara Fredrickson’s book, Positivity, she refers to a study conducted by Marcial Losada. He worked in industry studying the characteristics of high-performing business teams. In this particular study, he was tracking three dimensions - (1) whether people’s statements were positive or negative; (2) self-focused or other-focused; and (3) based on inquiry (asking questions) or advocacy (defending a point of view).
By the end of the study sixty different business teams had been studied and coded. Twenty-five percent of the teams met the criteria for high-performing. The criteria were profitability, customer satisfaction ratings, and evaluations by superiors, peers, and subordinates. Thirty percent of the teams scored low on the indicators.
The high-performance teams stood out as having a high positivity (6:1) ratio across the three dimensions. Since this study, there has been some discussion about the validity of the positivity ratio. Specifically, the concern is about the modelling used and the (6:1) ratio predictions. However, the empirical evidence that linked higher positivity ratios to flourishing mental health has been upheld as valid.
Habit 3: Road Test
You could road test this on your own or get your whole team (or classroom) involved. Write down or photograph 2-3 positive experiences each day for the week. Build up a lovely positive “bank” of moments and refer back to them as often as you can. The more often, the better. Remember how you felt at that moment and store that feeling in your memory.