The Progress Paradox: Priming the Positivity Pump (Part 3 of 3)

By: Patrick Williams

A positive frame of mind is needed for success at just about anything. In fact, research from positive psychologyshows that the tipping point for flourishing is to have a positive to negative ration of 3 to 1.

Let's say you've got a task you need to accomplish, like writing a letter, or an outline for a presentation or something you put off because you don't like doing it.

To prime yourself for success, start the task in a positive mood. One way to accomplish this is to engage in something pleasurable first — even if it’s just fantasizing or reading something funny.

Your self-talk is key. If you say to yourself, "Yeck, I hate doing this," you'll have resistance and procrastination to deal with. You can make your task easier by these messages:

  • This isn't going to be hard.
  • This shouldn't take me that long.
  • In half an hour, I'll have made a good start and I can go do something else.
  • I'll just start writing, and as always happens, some good ideas will come to me.

Without being insincere, you can probably think of 3-4 positive things to say. The more you engage in positive self-talk, the less inclined you will be to engage in negativity. When I ask some of my coaching clients [link] to do this exercise, they never fail to amaze themselves with the number of positive statements they come up with.

Physically, you can trigger positivity. Exercise is known to help because it gets the blood and oxygen to your brain. The simple act of standing up and stretching gets you ready for mental action.

Try smiling at someone. The evidence is clear: Smiling produces positive feelings in both giver and recipient. Our brains’ mirror neurons are particularly responsive to smiles, not to mention other facial emotions (anger, disapproval or worry). It’s almost impossible to smile at someone and not get a smile in return — but remember that sincerity is required.

If you’re a leader or manager charged with getting things done, a smile helps ensure better results and cooperation — something most parents already understand. We know emotions are contagious, yet how many of us transmit negativity and stress by forgetting to smile at work?

Make a conscious effort to create a positive work environment by smiling more often and being positive instead of stressed out. The more positive the mood, the better people work — and this includes you.

It may seem incongruous to “pretend” to be happy and successful before you set out for your day’s tasks. But the evidence is clear: Tapping into whatever positive mood you may have within you will set you up for more creativity, happiness and success.