27 September 2023

Aim high: How to seek the positive while facing adversity

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John Eades* says that in a world where negativity is all around us, it is important to focus on the positives — however small and insignificant they may seem.

The current business world makes it hard to be optimistic.

I don’t know if it’s the amount of negative information we receive, the speed in which judgments are cast, the sheer amount of people doing work they hate, or some combination of the three.

I’ve struggled to maintain optimism during difficult times, and I know from coaching professionals, it’s a common challenge for many.

Take Chris, a director in a medium-size consulting company.

He was promoted to lead and turn around an under-performing division.

He worked long hours, built strong relationships with his team members and had shifted the strategy to align with the current environment.

With all that work behind him, the second half of the year was only slightly better than the first half.

His boss was putting pressure on him to drive better results.

Chris was at his breaking point, and he knew his team was starting to take notice.

Instead of making a rash decision, we addressed his negative self-talk and assumptions that he wasn’t good enough for the job.

We channelled his thinking towards what he and his team could control, rather than spiralling down the doubt rabbit-hole.

I shared a recent study from Boston University School of Medicine which linked optimism and prolonged life.

Chris was shocked to find out that men and women who demonstrated optimism had, on average, an 11-to-15 per cent longer lifespan.

They had 50-to-70 per cent greater odds of reaching the age of 85, compared to the least optimistic people.

As he was starting to turn the corner about his choice to remain optimistic, I shared one of my favourite quotes from Jon Gordon, author of The Power of Positive Leadership.

“Being positive won’t guarantee you’ll succeed, but being negative will guarantee you won’t.”

He made up his mind and chose optimism.

Here are some of the strategies Chris and I have implemented to help you remain optimistic as well.

Choosing to be optimistic requires a daily discipline of looking for positives each and every day.

For example, recently I had a challenging day.

Not only did I receive some bad news on the home front, but we lost a deal, and another got delayed.

Needless to say, I left work a little beat down, but instead of allowing the negative energy to take hold, I used The Rule of Three Positives.

Each day, write down three positive things you did or experienced. Here is my actual list of The Rule of Three Positives from that day.

I chose to come home early to support my family instead of going to a work event I wanted to go to.

I shared an idea with my barber to help grow her struggling business.

I helped a coaching client work through a difficult problem with a team member.

These were all choices I made in my day that were positive.

While they aren’t massive accomplishments, they were small and positive.

By celebrating and reminding myself of them, I was able to reject the negativity of the day and focus on the positive.

Chris has adopted The Rule of Thee Positives as well and makes a practice during his commute home to list three things he chose to do that were positive.

The trick Chris and I have experienced is, if you can’t write down three things you did that were positive, you have work to do the next day.

While work can and absolutely should be a place that helps create positive energy for people, it is easy to lose sight of this during difficult times.

Find ways to promote other areas of life that typically create positive energy like healthy eating, physical fitness, faith, and building quality personal relationships.

Chris has rededicated himself to his health journey by eating better and going to the gym on a regular basis.

His confidence has skyrocketed and the working out has helped him alleviate the stress and pressure of the job.

Regardless of how well a team member performs, an individual’s value must also be measured by the positivity they bring to the team.

There’s a famous saying: “Don’t let one bad apple spoil the bunch.”

Each person plays a part in the ongoing development of a team’s culture. One drop of negativity will spread like wildfire.

Chris ended up finding a different job in the organisation for a member of his team that was constantly talking about the seeming lack of results the team was experiencing.

After their removal, the team started focusing on the small wins it was making, which catapulted it to more wins.

Fast forward a year, and Chris and his team are thriving.

Being relentlessly positive in the face of challenges is a true competitive advantage.

Stay positive and believe good things will happen.

*John Eades is the Chief Executive of LearnLoft a leadership development company. He can be contacted at johneades.com.

This article first appeared on John’s LearnLoft blog.

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