Sunday, June 22, 2014

Why I Need To Be More Optimistic

I admit it I prefer cynicism and a good negative rant over Pollyannaism any day. My rejection of the happiness movement began when I attended a positivity lecture with a friend at her church while in my twenties. The minister proclaimed acquiring a positive attitude along with donating money to his church would attract good things to our lives. If we believed we would become a millionaire we would become one. If we believed we would find true love we would find it. I remained skeptical while my friend got out her checkbook. Reading Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America probably did not help my pessimistic tendencies.

Last year while traveling with a co-worker I mentioned I had never read and didn’t believe in the premise of Rhonda Byrne's book The Secret. She spent the next two hours trying to persuade me I was wrong insisting changing her attitude had changed her life. The day after she had decided to become a more positive person an unexpected check arrived in her mailbox. I was not convinced.  

It took Jenn Aubert and her book Women Entrepreneur Revolution: Ready! Set! Launch!: 100+ Successful Women Entrepreneurs Share Their Best Tips on What Works, What Doesn't (and Why) ... a Business and Designing a Life You Loveto help me understand the deeper benefits of a positive attitude. She writes:
One of the main traits seen time and again in powerful leaders at all levels is positive framing. It should be no surprise that to manage the roller coaster that is running your own business, you have to keep an outlook that looks for the silver lining in situations. But it goes beyond just having a rose-colored perspective. It is also about seeing things for the way they are and taking the facts as facts rather than spinning stories that are not true or – for that matter – useful. (Pg. 47)
People who frame things in a positive light don’t let negative feelings paint their reality in a negative way. They see things for what they are and learn from them. They understand that they’re in control of their future and can influence future outcomes, learn and grow. (Pg. 48)
During the 2002 recession the company where I work was hit incredibly hard. The owner had been on leave caring for his sick wife and had left the management of his company with his two inexperienced sons. After our company’s bank refused to renew our contract he returned to save his company. Over the next month he contracted a new bank to provide a line of credit and to take over our existing loans all at more favorable interest rates than we had previously. He negotiated long-term notes with five of our major vendors to pay off outstanding payable balances over the next two years. He downsized and cut costs in every area possible. Ultimately he saved his company. I am not sure if any of this could have been achieved if he were not an optimist. A more negative person would have just sold the company’s assets to the highest bidder.

During the great recession my company was again hit hard. Our owners again down sized and cut costs. They mentioned several times how they never would have made in through the great recession if they hadn’t experienced almost losing their company in 2002. They are convinced the changes they made in 2002 had made the company stronger and better able to withstand future financial set-backs. Talk about a silver-lining.

While Jenn Aubert was interviewing Stella Grizont the founder of WOOPAAH she learned:

Maintaining a positive attitude is deeper than just being optimistic and looking on the bright side. According to Stella what is most important is a belief in your vision and seeing ways to maneuver difficult situations and challenges. While a leader within the Ladies Who Launch organization she worked with thousands of women helping them maintain a positive frame by seeing the possibilities, taking the next step and taking account of one’s previous successes. This valuable tool of reframing situations, challenges and obstacles is a skill that can take you far. (Pg. 48)

I had been missing the true benefit of optimism. I had realized people prefer spending time with positive people and those with a positive attitude were more likely to be hired, make friends and find a mate. But I also thought those who believed in the happiness movement had been brain-washed into thinking all they had to do was be positive and good things would miraculously appear into their life. In reality ridding yourself of negative, trapped and I hate myself thoughts frees up your mind to come up with real solutions.

Perhaps it is time I let go of my own negative attitudes and work towards becoming a more optimistic person.

If you would like to learn more about Jenn Aubert and her book Women Entrepreneur Revolution please see my interview with Jenn Aubert.

Have you embraced the happiness movement?  Why or why not?
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  1. I just was having this conversation with two different people the other day. I basically said, if you're negative about things that are happening in your life, then other people are going to pick up on it. And it's going to hurt you in your pursuit of the things you are looking one case it was meeting someone and in the other it was struggles with their business pursuits. Now I am not the most positive person ever either, but you will never know it, unless you are one of my closest family members or friends. I strive to come across as positive in all of my business relationships because that's who I want to be, and being positive always helps you get to where you want to go faster!

  2. I wouldn't say I've bought into the positivity cures all belief, but I do agree that people who always look at the negative limit their options.

  3. The Secret actually kinda did change my life. I came to a similar conclusion to you - I would be happier overall if I had a more positive attitude. I still believe in being realistic and planning for the worst by all means, but trying to default to positive rather than negative has really done wonders.

  4. I naturally tend to be more negative and not very trusting in others. But, I had a boss years ago who told me that I needed to learn to "assume the best motive" in other people. It is difficult for me, but I have found that doing that makes people appear not stupid, but well intentioned ... and perhaps slightly off the mark. It does make life easier.

  5. i know it seems totally hokey, but i am a firm believer and advocate of the book The Secret. it was a life changer for me! once i started believing in myself and thinking positively, so much good started happening.

  6. I really try each day to be positive. I believe that it can definitely guide your life. Of course, being around positive people is a big help also. So, it's something that I continue to work on in my personal and business life.

  7. I am completely back and forth, as usual. Some days I am the most sarcastic, negative person in the room. Other days, I bring even the angriest person to giggles. I think being positive has it's benefits....but I also think success is more than positivism. Determination is the first word that comes to my mind when I think of success....but I guess that would like back to being positive too, huh? Can't be determined unless you believe you can do it - which is a happy emotion, like faith and aspiration.

    I think it's exhausting to be positive consistently....but with practice, I'm sure I could be a bit more in-tune with my happy side.

  8. Thanks so much for sharing - I am a naturally more optimistic person by nature, but like you, I have never read 'The Secret' and I don't really believe in a mystical quality of optimism. For me personally - I like to think of this optimism as more of a resiliency, bad stuff still happens, but like the owner you mentioned, I am able to see the good that can and often does come out of a bad situation (although it may take a while to surface). Success doesn't magically arise from being 'happy' but let's face it - life is better when you can look on the bright side in a situation. (stopping by from #sitssharefest)

  9. I do think being positive is a great place to be when starting a business. It's very hard to set and accomplish goals in life with a negative attitude. Since I suffer from anxiety and depression, it has been a struggle. But It definitely helps to have an overall positive outlook.

  10. I am positive to the extreme, Savvy! Years ago my 5 year old son (Now 19.) said to me, "Mommy, you can't be silly all the time!!" That sums me up right there!

  11. I am definitely a pessimist and yet lately I get the allure of the optimist movement. I understand why it is important to believe that there is a way out of the dark and dreary. And yet, I don't think being an optimist or being able to see optimistically means that everything will work out in the end. I struggle a lot with anxiety and depressed thoughts and I'm trying to find ways around them that don't paint the world with rainbows and butterflies. Reality is important and sometimes things are just difficult and there isn't always an answer. Still, I do like to try and think, "what if there is an answer" before throwing in the towel. I do understand that great innovation and leadership grows out of that kind of mindset.