If you’ve ever spoken to any of us here at NEP, you’ll know how much emphasis we put on mindset and positivity. We use a lot of positive psychology principles and have seen some phenomenal results from our clients when they truly embrace these concepts. But what is a positive mindset? What does it mean to be positive, is it possible to be positive all the time and how can you possibly sustain that? Is it a myth or is it actually achievable?
Yes, you can actually achieve a positive mindset and sustain it over the longer term
First and foremost, having a positive mindset does not mean you have to be positive all the time, nor does it mean you risk reality for airy fairy thoughts and outcomes.
Research has shown that for every one negative thought we have, we need roughly three to five positive thoughts to counteract it. Translation: we need to have around five positive thoughts to bring us back to equilibrium.
- Your alarm goes off and you wake up still feeling tired – you curse the alarm questioning whether it really has been however many hours since you went to bed.
- That’s one negative thought for the day.
- You get out of bed and stub your toe on the end of it as you blearily make your way out to the bathroom, cursing your partner for choosing the bed with the small frame.
- That’s two negative thoughts.
- You grab your phone from the kitchen on the way to the bathroom (don’t even get me started on this…that’s a topic for another time!) and see an email from the news feed you subscribe to saying markets are down overseas, politicians have done something crazy…again or even that your favourite reality TV show has been cancelled, you roll your eyes and brace yourself for a bad day ahead.
- That’s three negative thoughts.
So far, you’ve been awake for all of about three minutes and have accumulated one negative thought for each minute. To counteract your pessimistic path, you now need 12-15 positive thoughts. You haven’t even been to the bathroom yet…where are you going to be by the time you walk into work!
From this simple yet realistic scenario, you can see how it is very easy to slip into a spiral of negativity. When I say negativity, I’m not just referring to catastrophic events. I’m talking the small, sometimes insignificant details we often overlook – the stubbing your toe, the traffic backlog on the way to work, the watercooler chat about why no one has fixed the leaking tap in the kitchen after several week’s conversation etc. These are all reinforcing pathways in your brain that feel comfortable because it is trying to keep you safe. It’s trying to avoid the unknown, as surely the unknown is bad, right?
But what if it’s not, what’s the alternative view?
- Your alarm goes off and you feel the dread of having to get up slipping in. You immediately think, “Awesome! I’m alive! I have a full day of opportunity ahead of me. I’m thankful I went to bed 20 minutes earlier last night.”
- You get up and stub your toe on the end of the bed. You think, “Damn, I need to be more conscious of that. Next time I’ll give myself a few more seconds to adjust to the light in the room. At least it was only my little toe and not my shin…those knocks aren’t funny!”
- You walk out and grab your phone, cue news feed of choice. You think, “What’s the opportunity here? How can I educate my clients on the importance of long term view thinking? How can I use this as an education piece with the younger members of my team to show the importance of planning/thinking more broadly/value proposition to our clients? Is there something I could be doing with my time rather than watching that show?”
All of a sudden, things don’t look so bleak. The days are identical, but the mindset is totally opposite. There still may be traffic on the way to work, the tap may still be leaking, but your mindset is ready for opportunity, rather than obstacles. You’ve set it up to succeed at the day, rather than preparing it for failure.
The brain is wired for defence, which means it’s wired for not really doing anything that exciting. This means our benchmark is actually low when it comes to performance. It’s not expecting us to be doing anything that great, so it’s actually really easy to ask it to perform well. If we look for the opportunities and positivity going on around us, it’s easy to teach it to start seeing these naturally rather than constantly looking for the bad stuff.
If you don’t know the psychology and neuroscience around a positive mindset, but you would like to enjoy the results of increased mental fitness, never fear – we are experts in this field and we are here to help. Please do get in touch for a complimentary 45 minute consultation.