#007 - A focus on POSITIVITY and the POWER that it has to shape our work lives and personal lives. POSITIVITY isn't a gadget you can buy and plug in. It's a mindset that shapes YOU and how YOU react to everything and everyone around you.
Hello again, and WELCOME to Keys for New Leaders. This is your host, Dr. Charles Boyer, but I think you know by now that my friends call me Charlie, and that’s YOU, my friend. If you haven’t already done so, please take a minute and subscribe to the podcast. If your podcast audio player doesn’t have a “subscribe” button, you may need to copy the URL of this podcast and paste it in your audio program. Thanks for taking a minute to do this. I’m told that Apple Podcasts now ask you to “follow” a podcast rather than “download” it. That’s ok – follow Keys for New Leaders. I’m really enjoying preparing these podcasts, and I hope you are enjoying listening to them.
In this episode, we’ll focus on POSITIVITY and the POWER that it has to shape our work lives and personal lives – and for the BETTER, that’s for sure! POSITIVITY has been defined as “the quality or state of being positive.” It seems a bit strange to me, but some people have claimed that POSITIVITY is not a real word, that it was made up and added to the language only recently. Not so – the word “positivity” has been around since the 17th Century! And you can find references to “positivity” just about everywhere. I did an internet search recently and came up with 94 million hits! It’s amazing and wonderful that Norman Vincent Peale’s book, “The Power of Positive Thinking,” first published in 1952, is still an international best seller with over 5 million copies in print.
Just what is this POSITIVITY anyway, and why is it so important for today’s leaders? Well, for starters, it’s been shown that positive thinking in the workplace:
· Reduces stress levels
· Boosts productivity
· Improves problem solving
· Helps decision making
· Encourages better interaction
· Helps manage feedback and conflict
· And SO MUCH MORE!!!
But what IS it? POSITIVITY is not a gadget that you can buy and plug in. It’s a mindset that shapes YOU and how YOU react to everything and everyone around you. It’s the positive energy you radiate to others. It’s YOUR “CAN DO” response to tough problems. It’s thinking of “we” rather than “me.” It’s a way of thinking and a way of being. “Rose-colored glasses?” No, it’s more like “Possibility-colored glasses.” It’s a way to choose the quality of your life, rather than feel you are at the mercy of fate. And YOU have to want it and work to develop it!
POSITIVITY helps shape YOU as an individual. Positivity, or positive thinking, has been shown to reduce stress, and result in less negative self-talk, according to a Mayo Clinic article. Some other benefits of positive thinking include:
· An increased life span
· Lower rates of depression
· Lower levels of distress
· Greater resistance to common colds
· Better psychological and physiological well being
· Better cardiovascular health
Well now, who wouldn’t want that? It all sounds so good – and it is! If only we would stick to positivity, and let go of negativity.
It’s all too easy to slip into negative territory. After all, we’ve had more practice at negativity than positivity for many years. It’s easy to say, “Don’t do that” rather than “Do this.” I caught myself many times saying to a student, “Don’t slouch.” Why didn’t I just say, “Sit up straight?” It’s much more positive and encouraging. There’s an article posted on my blog, called “Don’t Say Don’t.” I invite you to take a look at it. It’s posted on
I wonder why we are so good at the “don’ts?” Have you noticed that of the Ten Commandments, eight of them are “You shall NOT…” The US Constitution is full of negative statements. I realize it was written in rather formal legalistic but now archaic language, but it’s full of negatives. For example, the requirements for holding office as a Senator read: “No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the age of thirty years.” That took a lot of words to say that Senators must be at least 30 years old. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to say that in a positive way?
We’re very good at saying what we don’t want. I once heard a local politician expound at some length what he was against. When it was time for questions, I asked him, “What are you FOR?” He couldn’t tell me.
Remember the story about the two wolves inside you? One is angry and one is kind. Which one will win? Whichever one you feed. It’s a choice we all have. You can complain that the rosebush has thorns, or you can enjoy the beautiful flowers that the thornbush produces. Your choice – complain … or enjoy.
We have a nice Hawthorn tree in our front yard. It has very sharp thorns on its branches, yet it also produces a big crop of bright red berries each fall that feed the birds and squirrels. They focus on the berries and ignore the thorns. And we enjoy watching all the berry-picking that goes on until the tree is picked clean. Hey, an added benefit - it entertains the cat for hours on end.
Going back to the two wolves story, I’ve heard the same story as two wolves, two tigers, and two dogs, all variations of the same story. Author Jon Gordon chose two dogs, and wrote a wonderful positivity book called “Feed the Positive Dog.” It’s a very good book that I recommend highly. Three key lessons from Gordon’s book are well worth noting for you here:
1. Develop a positive plan. It doesn’t just happen – you have to work at it all the time. Being positive is like building trust. It takes time and lots of practice.
2. Before saying something negative, STOP! Negative words are like rocks. Once they’re thrown, you can’t take them back.
3. Show compassion and offer friendship. It doesn’t cost you any more to be kind, and it pays big dividends in the long run.
Let’s go back to that second point about stopping before saying something negative. Social media are sometimes full of angry, hurtful comments these days. We should all think twice or three times before hitting the “send” key. Those rocky words can go on forever in cyberspace, and apologies don’t erase the hurts. It reminds me of a comment often used by my eighth grade civics teacher about freedom and responsibility. After all these years, I can still hear him saying, “Yes, you have a right to swing your fist, but that right ends at the other guy’s chin.” Too often, we don’t think about where our fist will land before we throw that punch.
We’ve already mentioned several of the benefits of POSITIVITY, such as reduced stress levels, increased life span, and better cardiovascular health. In addition, an increase in YOUR POSITIVITY helps your brain’s capacity to process information, enhance your creative thinking, increase your attention span, helps you stay focused, and decide your rection to known problems ahead of time. I call that last one “mental rehearsal” – you can rehearse possible scenarios in your mind if you are anticipating some sticky situations with others. It really helps!
Well, if POSITIVITY is so good for you, how do you go about getting your share of it? That’s where YOU come in, my friend. It won’t just come to you like a bolt out of the blue – YOU have to decide on making POSITIVITY a part of who you are and all that you do.
It starts with stepping away from the Don’ts and the Can’ts. Why waste your time and energy fussing about what you Don’t want or what you Can’t do? So let’s take a look at what you Want and what you Can do. Positive language and positive self-talk is a great place to start. Here are a few tips that I’ve found most helpful:
1. Be Grateful for what you have, rather than fuss about what you haven’t. Replace Can’t with CAN, and replace Don’t with DO. Words have great power!
2. Surround yourself with positive people who will listen and then ask “Yes, and what else can we do?” rather than “Yeah, but we can’t because…” and you name whatever excuse follows. Yeah, But … Yeah, But … Yeah, But … Those Yeah Buts can be deadly. Stay away from them.
3. Laugh more – there is a lot of humor to be found to lighten the heaviest load. If you need help, listen to the song “I Love to Laugh” from the 1964 Disney movie, Mary Poppins. You can find it on You Tube. I challenge you to listen to that song all the way through with a straight face!
4. Look at problems as things you and others can solve – there’s ALWAYS a way. What looks like a brick wall can be climbed over, run around, dug under, or dismissed as some awful mirage. The great musician, Duke Ellington, said: “A problem is a chance for you to do your best.”
5. Take time off for yourself and your loved ones. Spend a little time with nature. Read a good book. Listen to some uplifting music. Sit and look at a beautiful sunset. We ALL need that!
6. Set realistic goals and work to achieve them – AND celebrate all the small wins as you get there. We’ll talk about SMART goals in our next episode.
7. This is a tongue-twister, so I’ll have to make a run for it. Here goes: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… It’s ALL small stuff … And if you can’t FIGHT or FLEE, FLOW!!!
These are just a few of many things you CAN do to develop more POSITIVITY in your life. What CAN you add to YOUR list? What WILL you add? What’s stopping you?
Just a word of caution – I don’t want you to think that POSITIVITY is always smiles and sunshine. Sometimes, it’s hard work to keep a positive outlook in the midst of what seems to be doom and gloom. But I believe there is always a better way – and that’s what YOU must find. What’s the best way, the most positive way, the most encouraging way to get through whatever the situation is? I believe there is ALWAYS a BETTER way.
Here are some questions to ponder, and answer as you wish. Again, this is not a test, and there are no right or wrong answers.
1. What are three ways that you find negativity showing up in your life?
2. For each of those three negatives, what is one way you can change them to positivity?
3. What one step will you take in the next week to begin to change one of those three negatives to a positive?
Your Special Key for this episode? Well, I feel another ‘B” word coming out: B Positive. You have a choice, and you can choose to B Positive in your life. YOU can do it!
In the next episode, we’re going to focus on SMART goals and action steps. Goals without action steps are just good wishes. I look forward to visiting with you next week. Until then, take good care of yourself and your loved ones, my friend. Stay safe and well.