Motivational speakers often instruct their audiences to "be positive" in all aspects of their life. It's pretty easy to have a sunny disposition when everything is going your way, but who can blame someone for feeling down when things don't go according to plan?
As it turns out, remaining optimistic in the face of adversity isn't as easy as it sounds, since it requires fighting your own biology.
"We all have what psychologists call a 'negativity bias,'" said David Collins, co-owner and general manager of training and social intelligence company The Tracom Group. "This causes us to look for problems, react negatively or become overly emotional even when the situation does not warrant such negative responses. Our brain automatically goes into a negative mode when we sense a threat, and we're often not even aware of it."
This inherent, hard-wired reaction can work against you and hamper career success, Collins said. But becoming aware of the negativity bias is the first step to developing resilience against it, and therefore approaching your daily tasks and obstacles with a more positive mindset, he said. [Stay Positive! How to Deal with Negative Feedback]
Collins noted that there are three major behavior categories that affect your reaction to negative situations: how you filter information and interpret the world, how you handle challenges, and how you communicate and connect with others. Several elements within each of these categories contribute to a resilient attitude.
Interpret. Your optimism, sense of personal responsibility and personal beliefs shape the way you view the world. Individuals with a resilient, positive mindset believe that their own talents and motivations determine their success or failure in the workplace. They feel connected to causes or values they believe are larger than themselves. These individuals expect the future to be good, but understand that challenges may arise and things may not go as expected.
"This kind of mild optimism is a crucial aspect of resiliency because it instills people with motivation while allowing them to anticipate and plan for challenges," Collins said.
Act. Someone with a positive mindset handles challenges with self-assurance and composure. These people have confidence in their professional skills and ability to deal with obstacles. They can manage stress, remain calm under pressure and plan to resolve problems effectively. A resilient attitude also requires strong goal orientation, which means monitoring progress on and regulating behavior that affects the goals one sets for oneself.
Interact. People who are able to communicate with others candidly and courageously in the face of difficulty can share ideas and ask the appropriate questions that will help to solve a problem. Positive thinkers view themselves as part of a supportive social network, which aids in their ability to share and discuss issues.
"[Courageous communication] is critically important for resolving relational conflicts and differences in viewpoints, and allows people to move towards their goals efficiently," Collins said.
Based on these behaviors and traits, outlined in Tracom's workbook, "Developing a Resilient Mindset," Collins offered six ways to help employees, especially those in leadership roles, build a more positive attitude when facing workplace challenges.
Slow down and breathe. The negative reactions that automatically arise when people face a perceived threat could result in lashing out or giving up. You can consciously control these emotional reactions by changing the interpretation that creates the emotion in the first place. By slowing your though patterns down and taking a deep breath, you can trigger the prefrontal cortex, the more rational part of the brain.
Remember to be mindful. Being mindful emphasizes living in the present moment and not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. In any given situation, try to develop a nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment.
Think before you act. Using specific behaviors and nonverbal techniques can change the way you feel and can improve your resilience.
Be grateful. Savoring and reflecting on positive moments releases dopamine, extending your good mood. It also motivates you to seek out additional positive experiences.
Give to others. Giving your time, expertise, etc. can be energizing, as long as it is directed toward something you value.
- Set ambitious goals. Goals are best designed when they focus not only on the outcome you want to achieve, but also on the process by which you will achieve that outcome.
Originally published on Business News Daily