Staying Positive

A friend recently sent me a PowerPoint show entitled “Staying Positive”. Due to extreme hokey-ness, poor grammar, and confusing spelling, it’s probably not worth posting. However, several of the core messages resonated with me in my current situation.

If you don’t have the security, social structure, and routine of a day-to-day job, external factors affect you more, and they can depress you. You become hypersensitive to other people’s behavior. News about how bad the labor market is—and how much worse it’s getting—promotes despair. If it were all in your head, it might not matter, but negativity can come across in your body language and in your verbal and emotional responses to people. As a practical matter, if you appear depressed, disturbed, sullen, angry, or hypersensitive, the professionals you network with will want to forget you as fast as possible, not hire you or refer you.

I firmly believe that attitude (by which I mean, how you interpret your environment), thinking, and behavior are interdependent. They can amplify each other or interfere with each other. The point is to interfere with the negative and amplify the positive. Here are some tips that help me:

  • As my good friend advised me, when you feel depressed, think of people who are less fortunate than you. This is how to interpret all the bad news in the media in a way that promotes gratitude and compassion. It's always possible to recall some one who died, fell ill recently, lost their loved ones or had their worldly possessions stolen.
  • When you react to someone with "What an idiot!" immediately ask yourself, "I wonder what would make an intelligent person behave in a way that appears patently stupid to me?" This validates your reaction but engages your creative thinking, compassion, and even your sense of humor.
  • Celebrate small victories more. At my last job, we used to ring a bell whenever we closed a sale. Why not do something like that at home when you make a bit of money or land an interview? It is not a zero-sum game. There is no Law of Conservation of Celebration. It is indeed possible to celebrate victories more and dwell on losses less.
  • Seek inspiration. Remind yourself of people (fictional or real) who overcame difficult obstacles.
  • Lose yourself in a feel-good movie. Even the cliches can lighten your mood.
  • Listen to sad music. It can be cathartic.
  • Smile a little wider and laugh a little harder. Even a forced smile is better than none.
  • As Dale Carnegie said, "Don't Criticize, Condemn, or Complain". Criticism can usually be substituted with leading people to desired behavior. Complaint without remedial action marks you as a loser. And when you condemn anyone, you eliminate the possibility that they could redeem themselves.
  • Speak positively about people who are not around. If you bad-mouth people behind their backs, your listeners will assume you do the same to them.
  • Exercise

When I left my last job, I told people “A negative attitude never really succeeds. A positive attitude never really fails.” I continue to believe that.

If you have other tips, then please comment below.

Tags: Philosophy

Updated at: 5 February 2009 5:02 PM

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