What does it mean to be positive? According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word positive is defined as “the practice of being or tendency to be optimistic in attitude.” This is important because the very meaning of the word emphasizes the idea that we have a choice in being positive. There is an old saying “your attitude determines your altitude,” meaning that the way we respond to circumstances or situations that are out of our control will determine if we will overcome a problem at that moment in our life. Even hiring managers when recruiting and interviewing future employees are starting to understand that a person’s attitude and their ability to be positive triumph skill and experience. A skill for a particular job can be taught; however, it’s extremely difficult to teach a person to have a positive attitude when things are not going their way.
Personally, I believe having a positive attitude is critical in any given situation because it helps a person rise above the problem mentally and emotionally. This is why I believe positive psychology “the scientific study of optimal human functioning” is so important. I like to say that positive psychology is building on what is right about people instead of what is wrong with them. In fact, it is said that positive psychology is about the permission to be human. Positive psychology does not negate the fact that people have negative experiences and emotions, but instead teaches that it’s unhealthy and counterproductive to a flourishing life if we dwell in that negative mindset and attitude.
Currently, due to Covid-19, most people are in a state of crisis. Small business owners are on the brink of losing their businesses, children have been out of school for weeks, employees are adjusting to remote work, hospitals don’t have enough resources to care for the sick, the economy looks as if we are going into a recession, and companies are laying off people. I would say these circumstances are definitely things to be concerned about, and people have the right to feel those negative emotions about whatever situation they are in. However, being and staying in those negative emotions and attitudes will determine the landscape of one’s future. Here are a few practical solutions from positive psychology to help us all have a more optimistic outlook.
BROADEN AND BUILD
Professor Barbara Frederickson developed a theory on positive emotions called Broaden and Build. Essentially, positive emotions often initiate a cycle of more positive emotions. Therefore, when we have positive emotions it gives us the capacity to think more clearly, find solutions to problems, facilitate skill development and foster well-being. For example, having positive emotions can help a businessperson think of more creative ways they have never considered before to bring in different revenue streams in times of crisis.
Hope Theory is the belief that your future can be brighter and better than your past and that you actually have a role to play in making it better. This theory is based on science and there are 3 components to understanding hope. 1. Your Goals (planned action), 2. Pathways (roadmap), and 3. Willpower (mental energy). People can be intentional about the future they want to create with Hope Science. This gives people positive emotions and the confidence they need to deal with a crisis.
Psychologist Carol Dweck is known for the Growth Mindset Theory. Someone with a growth mindset believes that the amount of effort they put into a specific pursuit determines the amount of improvement they will see in that particular area—learning, behavior, outlook, mental attitude, etc. Ultimately, a growth mindset is about curiosity, embracing challenges, trying something new, acquiring new knowledge and skills, and putting in effort to master a task. When in a crisis, we can learn to grow and develop as a person and redirect our energy towards a positive future.
These 3 concepts have helped me so much in times of crisis. No one is exempt from going through tough professional and personal challenges and situations. Practical and actionable steps are what moves a person from responding negatively to a situation to positively embracing the crisis at hand and knowing that they will get through the situation.
Michael Dickerson is a work/life expert, Positive Psychology Practitioner, and host of The Spillover Effect Podcast. He utilizes positive psychology science and research to contribute to individuals, teams and organizations factors that can help employees achieve work/life integration. Michael believes is dealing with individuals as a whole person and enhancing the employee experience within organizations.