Positive Thinking in a Negative World

If you twitter, you are constantly reading quotes that espouse positive thinking. Some quotes are age old and some are brand new, but they mostly convey the sentiment–you are what you think, so think positive. Do you ever wonder if all those people that post those statements live that happy, positive, empowered life they like to talk about?

Day to day life isn’t quite so rosy all the time. In fact, I spent a lot of my life being the glass-half-empty person, known as a bit of a perfectionist. I am fortunate to often exceed my clients expectations, but the truth is, it is hard to meet my own. That said, I have learned a lot about life by just living it. And one of the things I have learned is that while the world is far from perfect, positive thinking really does make just about everything better.

Some people may glide through life untouched by tough times. These days, those folks are pretty rare. Let’s face it, everybody, even the happiest of people, have a bad day now and then. Maybe you don’t feel well, run into surly employees at the airport, your top salesman just resigned, or you get the latest sales report–everyday bad stuff. Or maybe you have been fired, or have a life threatening health issue.

Me, well I lived a charmed life for a long time, but I have also had some big challenges; my second child is “special needs”, we have had more than one “career transition” in our family, and I beat breast cancer last year. So I have a little experience discovering the benefits of being positive in a negative world. So here is what I have learned:

  1. Being positive is a choice; you can’t control what happens but you do control how you respond. Dwelling on the negative begets…..what? Nothing good. It isn’t always easy to see the best in a less than perfect situation…but it is always the better alternative. What can be gained by focusing on the negative? Sales down? Ok. Bad deal. But there are at least a dozen things you can do about it–pick two and do them with a smile and a passion. Attitude is contagious. You might be surprised at the result! If you aren’t sure what to do, ask your employees, your advisory board or a consultant.
  2. Ego is a dangerous thing. One of the most cited pieces of advice from our CEO interviews is, that as a leader, you can’t afford to have an ego. Now, I don’t know about you, but I suspect some people who claim not to have any, have some. It is hard to know where confidence stops and ego starts. The question is, do you do what you do to make you happy, or to spread confidence and encouragement–to your employees, your customers, your shareholders? One of the secrets of successful business leaders is exactly that; they have a way of getting people to give their best, maybe more than they thought they were capable of. Their employees do it because they feel valued, relevant and cared about. It is hard to do that if you have a big ego.
  3. Finally, a positive spirit goes a long way toward building productive relationships. You are a product of the ten people you spend the most time with. So who do you choose to hang out with? At the office? In your social life? When I figured this out, I purposely determined who I wanted to spend time with–sought a mentor, spent time learning from others, and invested more time in my family. My perspective is it makes a difference–I am a better and more positive person than I was before. I believe every day will work out just exactly right, that if one door shuts another will open, if one way doesn’t work, another will, that I can make a positive contribution to everyone I come in contact with, and that when I mess up, I will seek a chance to make it up. That type of attitude doesn’t come easily for a perfectionist, but it certainly makes weathering mildly tough days, or major life storms much more bearable. It makes me a better friend, mentor, advisor and consultant. Much more is accomplished when you believe you can be a part of a solution instead of just complain about the problem.

In summary, we all live in the same world, deal with the same economy, have bad days and some tough experiences. It is how we choose to deal with them that will have much to do with our success. In closing, here are some of those inspirational quotes.

An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage. ~ Jack Welch

The reward of a thing well done, is to have done it. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The happiness of a man in this life does not consist in the absence but in the mastery of his passions. ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

A new day has dawned, and you can choose to make it the best day ever. ~ Anonymous

Believe you can and you will. ~ Margaret Reynolds

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