I’ve been told a time or two that my positivity and optimism are well…too much and I need to be more realistic about the challenges or situations that present themselves to me. ‘Stay grounded’, ‘be realistic’, ‘stop being so happy all the time’ or my favorite ‘you’re too happy for me’ are some of the feedback I’ve been given.
While a dose of realism might be required to keep us all grounded recent research shows that there is an optimal positivity to negativity ratio that will help you to achieve your goals whatever they may be while having a partial foot on the ground.
Researchers Marcial Losada, a Chilean social scientist and Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina found that, “Once positive emotions outnumbered negative emotions by 3:1 – that is for every three instances of feeling gratitude, interest or contentment, they experienced only one instance of anger, guilt or embarrassment – people generally flourished.
Daniel Pink, a New York Times best-selling author of To Sell is Human offers that, ‘Some negativity is essential. Negative emotions offer us feedback on our performance, information on what’s working and what’s not, and hints about how to do it better’.
While my positivity might be too much for some folks I know that this ratio applies to me and it’s how I continue forward on even some of my most challenging days at work, home and life in general.
On difficult days when you’ve faced a lot of rejection at work, perhaps a few things didn’t pan out with a friend or your toddlers bedtime routine is a hot mess here are a few things you can try to bring yourself back to neutral ready to face the next day summarized from Daniel Pink once again:
- Cultivate what he’s coined to be Interrogative Self-Talk, meaning, ask yourself if you can do it with the assumption of yes you can, but with the consideration of how. As an example I recently had a presentation to a large group. Prior to my start time I ask myself – Am I going to do well today? My first thought was: of course I will because I’ve prepared well and I have an amazing team to share in this presentation with. We are ready.
- Ground yourself in a three to one ratio of positive to negative emotions throughout your day. Should something negative happen, say, you got in an argument with a loved one, then, you need to find a way to bring some love, gratitude and appreciation into the rest of your day to balance out your perspective.
- At the end of each day make an attempt to find logical rationale to how and why negative things happened. Remember not everything is a personal reflection of who you are. As an example you are cut off on your drive home. The first reaction of most is that the world is out to get them and of course they would be cut off. Instead, consider an alternative that the other driver didn’t see you.
These strategies while not inherently complex can be daunting when you first integrate them into your day to day. My advice is to start one at a time and take note of how your perspective might change.
I’ll always be the optimist in the room believing there’s a way forward but recognizing there are upper limits to every scenario.