Sunday, August 15, 2010

Are you thinking positively during these negative times?

I learned recently that there is scientific proof for positive thinking and its connection to success.

This is not just some new-agey, fluffy fairy tale.

This learning came to me as I attended The UP Experience's Mini UP session where I saw Shawn Achor from Harvard University speak about "The Science of the Ripple Effect." He has researched the area of human potential and has been working at Harvard University for the past 12 years.

His findings have tremendous application in the workplace today since we all know how difficult it has become (given our current economic crisis) to create positive work environments that generate greater results and profitability. Everywhere we turn it seems like we are in a downward spiral.

But, we all have the ability to alter the course of this spiral.

Apparently, when any event happens to you in life, your brain automatically creates a counter-fact which is usually a hypothetical comparison that helps you judge the experience as good, bad or somewhere in between. Depending upon the counter-fact that you use, you create a positive experience or a negative one. The positive-ness or negative-ness of these experiences has a ripple effect on you, your environment and the people around you.

The reason it ripples to others is because your brain has something inside of it called "mirror neurons". These mirror neurons basically pick up others' emotions as if they were your own. Your brain reacts the same way to a smile from another person as it does to when you are smiling. This is a mirror neuron in action.

This is both good news and bad news.

The good news is that positive-ness can spread and helps you achieve. But, the bad news is that negative-ness also spreads and causes you to stall.

You can start to examine your counter-facts as events happen in your life. When these counter-facts cause you to judge the event as negative, find a more positive counter-fact.

Here is an example; we know that many people, including those close to you or maybe even you, are losing their jobs. A negative counter-fact could be: "That's terrible! I am a step closer to potentially foreclosing on my home, I will never find another job in this economy." A positive counter-fact could be: "That's terrific! What an opportunity to reassess and pursue another direction in my life, since I was never fulfilled in that job anyway."

Learning how to create positive counter-facts is also very helpful if you take a lot of things personally. You have to find a counter-fact that doesn't point to you. I am often amazed to see this in action with my daughter. She is 5 years old and she is a bit reserved and shy, especially around people she doesn't know. She doesn't always respond positively to others' overtures.

And yet, adults often take her responses personally. They have counter-facts that sound like this: "She doesn't like me." "She thinks I am weird, just look at that look she just gave me." It seems absurd. After all, she is a child and has nothing against any of these adults.

And yet, the counter-facts they use to "judge" their experience with my 5-year old reinforce that something is amiss with them.

Some of your counter-facts are just un-examined, programmed reactions. You must be proactive in managing and creating counter-facts that support your success.

Many of you may believe this is a bunch of bunk. In fact, you may think that people who consistently think positively by creating positive counter-facts are out-of-touch with reality and live in some illusionary world.

I must admit, I have been accused of this in my life before. But, I have to tell you, I like my "la la land" and now I know how it contributes to my success and the success of those around me.

Gen Y, who is a product of optimistic boomers, is the one generation who epitomizes positive thinking. In fact, my fellow "Texas Women Speaker who Rocks," Karen McCullough often says "Gen Y is the first generation whose self-esteem is higher than their talent."

I think she is spot-on. I also think this is a good thing. We have a lot to learn from this generation. That's why we are going to have amazing Gen Ys step up like Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, to blow the doors off business as usual.

Highly successful people have an unwavering, positive self-belief that often looks delusional to others.

It is such a simple thing that you can do every day to increase your chances for success.

Reinterpret every event, every step and every "failure" differently. Find a counter-fact that puts it all into a positive light. It doesn't mean that you can't set your bar high. You can. But with every step, and with every misstep, be kind and positive to yourself and to others. Positive momentum builds on itself.

And now we know that it even ripples to others.

I don't know about you, but I sure want some positive news these days. Don't you?

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