“Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as being able to remake ourselves.” ~Gandhi
For those of us who have been in the working world for any length of time, you’ve probably heard someone tell you that your attitude will determine your future. So is it actually possible for you to will yourself into a better job? It turns out that if you possess a positive attitude, and you have a deep desire to succeed and a willingness to follow it all up with positive actions; you have the power to do anything!
But before we begin to explore the science behind positive thinking there is one caveat, which bears mentioning. Bottom line, you can be as positive as you like, but if you do not follow it up with a well thought out plan and action steps, you will not succeed. You cannot just wish yourself into a better job. You have to take yourself there.
So lets assume that your career is stalled or maybe you are out of work altogether. Maybe you’ve been on several interviews with no success, or your career is not moving in the direction you had planned. How can you be so sure that positive thinking will help you transform your life?
There is actually a science behind the power of positive thinking that is pretty compelling. And by understanding how positive thinking can actually make a tangible impact in your life yielding positive results, you might just be willing to give it a try!
A positive psychology researcher by the name of Barbara Fredrickson has published some very interesting work about how you think can change your life. In short, you’ve got to make a commitment to think in a positive way. It’s a choice only you can make. Without deep diving into all of the particulars of Fredrickson’s study, the gist goes like this:
When you introduce negative thoughts into your brain, you narrow your mind and close yourself off to limitless possibilities. You tend to hyper focus on the events before you and therefore you cannot see that you have choices. For example, if you find out that a coworker is gossiping about you in the office, you might immediately become enraged (negative emotion) and only focus on his/her behavior. If you are embroiled in your negative thoughts, you might only think of how you are going to “get back” at your co-worker for behaving in such a way – you might even engage in slander yourself. In short, negative thoughts limit your ability to see the big picture and create a variety of possible outcomes. Ultimately, you will lack the creativity or the ability to see how you can turn the situation to your advantage.
Conversely, Fredrickson’s study has proven that focusing on positive thoughts, emotions and outcomes can significantly impact your ability to see a world full of unlimited possibilities. In the end, conjuring up feelings of joy, happiness, peace or contentment will allow you to come from a place of strength, optimism and creativity.
And here is the biggest news, Fredrickson coined the “broaden and build” theory which asserts that if you practice being positive, you will broaden your ability to think, reason and obtain new skill sets. The skill sets can be honed and you can then carry them with you for the rest of your life. In short, open your mind and you will open your world to options that you might not have even dared to imagine.
So let’s return to that coworker who was gossiping about you. How might you view the situation as positive? First, you may want to verify that the gossip actually occurred. How many times have we all jumped to the wrong conclusions based on hear-say. Assuming it’s true, you may want to brainstorm on how you might address the situation. You might decide to take your co-worker aside and discuss the issue politely and professionally. The end result might be a stronger bond between the two of you. You could also look at this as a growing opportunity. You may reframe the entire situation and recognize that you only have the ability to control your own actions and not the actions of others. In short, you can just let it go. The possibilities here are endless.
So you’ve been working on your positive attitude and your life is finally opening up. You are viewing the world as a place of immense possibilities, and you are building on your skill sets and natural intelligence. Is that enough? Not even close. There is also a term called “grit,” which is a prerequisite for success. Grit is defined as “courage and resolve;strength of character.”
There is also a growing body of evidence that suggests that having a high IQ is not the only predictor of how someone’s career will turn out. In fact, studies have shown that those people with grit, or the ability to never give up by trying new ways of doing things or by adopting new skills, are more likely to succeed than those who only possess a high IQ!
Put grit and positive thinking together and you have a winning combination!
We live in a time that is complex and more competitive than ever. The good news is that we hold the keys to our own future. It’s a choice. You decide.