Get positive: you know you want to

Are you a glass half full person – always looking on the bright side of life? Or do you see the glass as distinctly half empty – with potential disaster looming around every corner? Well, whatever your outlook, the good news is that we can all learn to be more positive. Whatever our natural disposition, we can all choose to replace that frown with a smile if, that is, we really want to.

Written by
Frances Hurst
May 21, 2012

Choosing to be more positive about life is not always easy. When circumstances are tough, and they are pretty tough for charities at the moment, keeping upbeat can be a real challenge. It can seem like just too much effort, and inappropriate even, when colleagues are under pressure to cut budgets and achieve more for less.

But becoming more positive can make a massive difference to our lives, to what happens to us, as well as how we feel. Our default thinking tends to be along the lines of, ‘If this initiative is successful, then I’ll feel more positive about my job.’ However, the latest research in positive psychology has found that the more we increase our positivity, the greater our chances of achieving success in the first place. So by deciding to have a more positive attitude, you will not only feel better, you’ll also be creating more reasons to be happy.

If I’ve whetted your appetite and you want to try this theory in practise, here are a few ideas to get you feeling more positive. Give one or two of them a try. After all, what have you got to lose except your frown lines?

1. Act as if

Imagine that you woke up this morning feeling like the whole world was against you. Take a good look at your imaginary self, your body language, your expression. What is it saying? When you get into work, what message is your face silently giving to the rest of your team?

By contrast, now imagine that you leapt out of bed this morning, feeling on top of the world. How did this version of you interact with your colleagues? What sort of energy were you radiating?

‘Acting as if’ is a great technique to help us shift our mental state. Even if you wanted to kick the cat when the alarm went off this morning, ‘act as if’ you’ve just won the lottery and see what transpires.

2. Change a routine

Little things can make a big difference to how we feel. Even changing your route to work or how you arrange your desk can give you a much-needed lift. How about changing to a more flexible working pattern?

3. The company we keep

Avoid people at work who bring you down. You know who they are. Make time for people who lift your energy and feed your soul.

4. Focus on your strengths

When it comes to personal development, most of us tend to focus on the things we’re not so good at, as if working really hard at what doesn’t come naturally to us will make us better people. We can’t all be good at everything, so how about focusing on developing your strengths for a change? What would life feel like if you really excelled at something?

5. Gratitude

Sometimes the old wisdom is the best, ‘count your blessings’ we were told. So stop and think for a minute; bring to mind at least five things to be grateful for today. Be really specific – a hug from someone special, a particularly tasty sandwich at lunchtime, the way the sun shone through the trees this morning. The more specific you are, the more powerful the positive effect will be.

6. Have some fun

Are you the person who drags everyone off to the pub at lunchtime or organises the inter-departmental quiz night? If not, why not? Taking an active approach and getting other people involved will lift their spirits and yours.

7. Assume positive intent

When a colleague from a different department sends you a terse sounding email, what is your first thought? When you hear that your manager has moved your desk to that dark corner of the office next to the printer, what do you do? Well, try this instead. Assume there was a positive intention behind what they did and then see how you feel. See what happens. The more you work with this concept, the more powerful it gets.

8. Motivation drivers

A new book, Drive - the surprising truth about what motivates us, by Dan Pink, identifies three aspects of personal motivation: autonomy (having control over our work), mastery (we want to get better at what we do) and purpose (we want to be part of something bigger than we are). Think about how you could give your motivators a boost this week. How could you hone a skill or get closer to your cause?

9. Random acts of kindness

We all know that doing a good turn can give you a warm glow, but have you ever thought about the knock-on effect of such behaviour? That’s the theory behind random acts of kindness – choosing to do something kind, just for the hell of it. It doesn’t have to be anything earth shattering. Just give someone a compliment. Or wash up the dirty cups left in the kitchen.

10. Me time

Make time each week for something that makes your heart sing. If you’re surrounded by negativity a regular dose of joy will go a long way to counteract it.

And finally, remember…

‘It is never too late to be what you might have been.’—George Eliot.
‘Sometimes I get the feeling that the whole world is against me, but deep down I know that it’s not true. Some of the smaller countries are neutral.’—Anon.

About the author: Frances Hurst

Frances Hurst

Frances Hurst is passionate about charities (and birds). She is co-founder of Birdsong Charity Consulting, which helps charities work more effectively with their people. She is a trustee of the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) and spent the 1990s working as marketing director at the UK’s RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds).

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