Maintaining Positivity

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One key element in maintaining or improving your level of productivity and success is your positive mindset. For a variety of reasons, feeling stressed, worried about the future, and/or inadequate to meet your challenges tends to degrade your performance.

That’s why people with a naturally positive attitude often find it easier to maintain their productivity and success in their work and life than do others who are more susceptible to negativity.

But even naturally positive people are subject to up and down cycles. For this reason, a toolkit to help you feel better about yourself and your future can be invaluable.

Here are three simple techniques to help you build, rebuild, and maintain a higher level of positivity during a larger slice of your work and your life:

Watch for Negativity

Like hazards on the road ahead, or the approach of heavy weather, negative thoughts and feelings are not only real, they can seriously damage your self-esteem and your ability to produce high-level results in specific situations.  

To combat any negative thoughts and feelings, you must first recognize that you’re experiencing them.

One easy method to help you recognize negative thoughts and feelings is a personal journal. There are many ways to keep one, so you should experiment to see what works best for you:

  • You can start and finish every day by noting in your journal an overall rating of your thoughts and your mood. For example: On a scale of one to ten, ten being best, how positive do you feel?
  • You can log your thoughts and feelings about particular issues. For example: Before you begin any major effort, you can record your expectations of its opportunities, difficulties, and likely outcomes. Later, you can compare actual events with your prior expectations.
  • You can keep an ongoing log of your thoughts and feelings. For example: Every hour or so, or whenever you naturally take a break, you can quickly log your stream of recent thoughts and feelings. To speed this process, detail a thought or feeling only the first time you log it. Afterwards, you can simply put a checkmark next to the description for each time it comes up again. Note that many negative thoughts or feelings come and go very quickly. But log these anyway, as the resulting damage often lingers far longer than the thought or feeling itself.

Journal entries like these will help you gain awareness of your pattern of thoughts and feelings, which in turn allow you to more easily monitor and improve them as time goes on.

Be Kind to Yourself

During periods of negativity, we may inadvertently treat ourselves much more harshly than we normally treat our friends and family. Once you recognize you’re beating yourself up, you can try to discount the power of these negative judgments and beliefs.

For example, thoughts and feelings – particularly negative ones – can be powerful. But that doesn’t mean in every case they are true.

One bumper sticker that’s relevant here carries a lot of wisdom, cautioning: “Don’t believe everything you think!” It’s a reminder that a lot of your “self-talk,” as well as more general ideas you hold, are worth re-examining in the light of objective reality.

A good way to re-examine your negative thoughts and feelings is by comparing them to both descriptive facts and other people’s perceptions.

For example, if your results on the job tend to rank near the top of the heap, how much of a loser can you really be?  If your friends reflect that you’re a warm, caring person, how can you be as selfish as you may worry that you are? If others are convinced a task or project is well within your capabilities, why should you believe it’s beyond them?

Ride the Positivity Express

Having recorded and considered your negative thoughts and feelings, you may become more open than you typically have been to sensible positivity.

To cultivate sensible positivity:

  • Identify some positive attitudes and feelings that reflect your history and/or your current situation accurately enough to stand up to criticism.
  • Hone them into specific affirmations, such as: “I have made my numbers the past four quarters in a row,” or “Other people I respect frequently ask me for advice and usually take it.”
  • Post these affirmations prominently, and consciously review them frequently.

Of course, these three are not the only techniques that can help you build, rebuild, and maintain a higher level of positivity. But they offer a good start on the process, which will become easier and more automatic as you incorporate it into your ongoing work and life routines.

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