Since I remember I always considered myself being an optimistic and enthusiastic person, but haven’t had thought of it being a strong asset. It was just how I was. When I started taking internships and gathering first professional experience, I noticed that my supervisors and coworkers distressed my positive aura and enthusiasm as one of my biggest strength.
Since last year, I have it on paper. I took the Clifton Strengths Assessment, a complex personality test that helps you identify your unique set of 34 natural talents and how to use them to maximize your potential. The test showed that among all the features listed, the positivity was my second biggest ‘talent’. I started getting questions: Kaja, so how do you do it?
You cannot control what’s happening to you, but you can always choose how you will react to the circumstances. Your reaction will be connected to your outlook on life. The world is not always pink and fair, but in nearly every seemingly bad situation you can find a positive aspect.
Imagine: you have been working hard for the last two years and still didn’t get a promotion. You might think you are a failure and never will be successful. Instead: Treat it as an opportunity to change something in your life.
Advice: Look for new opportunities and people that will appreciate your job or maybe seek conversation with your boss on what she or he wants you to improve. Ask yourself: What did I learn from this? Have I developed new skills? Did it make me wiser, more experienced, stronger?
2. Avoid complaining
My Polish nature takes over sometimes. I don’t like generalization, but there is something about complaining being Poles’ national sport. Any topic is good! But then I catch myself and work on avoiding this ‘type of social interaction’. You think venting from time to time is a good idea? – No, no, no, no, no! According to University of Arkansas psychologist Jeffrey M. Lohr, research has consistently showed that venting anger is ineffective and in some cases is even harmful. If venting really does get anger ‘out of your system,’ then venting should result in a reduction of both anger and aggression. Unfortunately for catharsis theory, the results showed precisely the opposite effect, Lohr and colleagues wrote.
Advice: So next time when you catch yourself on moaning, just be aware and break out this habit. Start a new topic, concentrate on something positive, ask yourself: am I complaining or sharing constructive feedback?
3. Stop worrying about things you can’t influence
You can control what your input is, but you cannot control the outcome. For example: You can work hard on a relationship with your coworkers, but you can’t control what they will think about you. You can put effort in learning for the exam, but you cannot control which questions you will get and you don’t know whether you will pass it.
Advice: Do your best and don’t worry about things you cannot influence. This advice is also valid for all situations that happened in the past – you can learn from them, but you cannot change them. Also remember, that planning the future and visualizing it can boost your optimism, however worrying what will happen, will stop you from even trying to act.
4. Surround yourself with positive people
I believe in a positive energy that can be given to other people and then can circle back to you. You become like a person you spend the most time with or as Tim Ferris, author of the book Tools of Titans says You are the average of the five people you most associate with. This means: choose your company wisely. Surround yourself with people that motivate you, support you, lift you up and listen to you, instead of wasting your time on energetic vampire. Learn from others to become a greater version of yourself everyday.
Advice: Think about your closest circle of friends. Do you support each other? Are you exchanging positivity and kindness or is there one side that is giving and the other side that is taking only? Is there a relationship balance?
5. Smile please
It is the obvious one: optimistic people smile. Smiling is one of the most basic biologically uniformed expressions of all humans and is contagious. Have you ever tried to frown when looking at smiling faces? It’s simply impossible!
Ron Gutman, during his TED Talk The hidden power of smiling reviews a raft of studies about smiling, and reveals some surprising results. Here are just a view:
Already in the 19. Century Charles Darwin wrote in his Facial feedback hypothesis that Even the simulation of an emotion tends to arouse it in our minds. This means that even if we fake a smile, it will make our brain feel better.
Smiling is better then chocolate. British researches found that one smile can generate the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate.
Smiling can make you healthier. It reduces the blood pressure, the level of stress-enhancing hormones (cortisol, adrenaline, dopamine), and increases endorphins.
Smiling people are perceived as more competent, live longer and have overall better well-being than those who don’t smile.
Advice: Start smiling regularly and you will feel the difference!
To sum up: Staying positive does not mean being unrealistic and naive. It’s the matter of absorbing the reality in a positive way. Its seeing that the glass is half full and not half empty and staying motivated even when you meet obstacle on your path. The positive energy is contagious. With your enthusiasm you can motive and get others excited about what they are going to do.