Optimistic By Nature

sunriseI would love to say that I am an optimistic person by nature.  I would love to say that–but I would be lying.   Unlike some of my friends who always seem to see the bright side,  I would usually plan for the worst case scenarios.  Optimism is not something that comes easy to me, but over the years I have discovered that optimism is a key factor in achieving happiness.

Optimism  plays an important role in determining how resilient we are when facing stressful situations.  Without an optimistic perspective, it can be very difficult and at times almost impossible to navigate some of life’s challenges and bounce back quickly .  The good news is that while we may not all be born optimists, we can train ourselves to be more optimistic.

There are good reasons to cultivate optimism if it isn’t one of your premier strengths.  The first one is simple–no one likes to be around a pessimistic person.  If someone is constantly expecting the worst, their attitude will begin to affect those around them. No one likes to be around a Gloomy Gus, so pessimism has an adverse affect on support networks, both personally and professionally.  Also, when someone is optimistic they tend to be more flexible and creative in their thinking.

This flexibility comes in very handy when coping with stress.  Mental flexibility helps people look at stressful situations from various perspectives.   It helps them reframe a situation in a positive manner.  Flexible people can explore multiple solutions to a problem, and they can also find a positive meaning in difficult events.  These techniques sound relatively simple, but they can be very difficult, especially during stressful times.

So how can you develop an optimistic outlook?  Just like getting to Carnegie Hall, it takes practice.  Here are some steps you can take when something bad happens.

  • Remember that difficulties won’t last forever.  The only thing that is constant is change.  Sometimes it is almost impossible to believe that problems won’t last forever, but they won’t.  Eventually the good times will come back.
  • Keep a problem in perspective–don’t let it spread into other aspects of your life.
  • Explore ways and resources available to solve the problem.  Take responsibility for your actions and don’t expect a problem to solve itself.
  • Be grateful for your support network and those around you who appreciate your struggle.

On the other hand, these are some things to do when something good happens (because good things do happen).

  • Accept responsibility for whatever part you played in the event.  As the old adage says–take credit where credit is due.
  • Feel gratitude  for what happened, whether it came by design or just good luck.
  • Think of ways to expand on the positive event.

These are a few ways to increase optimism, but are certainly not the only ones.  There are a lot of factors that determine how optimistic a person is.  Some are genetic and some are developmental, but it is possible to increase a positive outlook.  A few years ago, I decided to explore ways to increase my happiness and overall satisfaction with my life.  Stress seemed to be taking over, and I had trouble finding enjoyment in even the simple things.  It certainly wasn’t the way I wanted to live. In a nutshell, I just wanted to be happier.

After practicing these steps during both good and bad times I can now proudly say I am a realistic optimist (and much happier).  Building optimism and a positive outlook helped me to neutralize stress and find enjoyment in daily life.  I am not saying that optimism eliminates stress–that would be foolish.  But keeping an optimistic outlook helps to deal with bad times and minimize their consequences while enhancing the good times.  Maintaining an optimistic attitude may not always be easy, especially if it doesn’t come naturally, but it is certainly worth the effort.

Suggested Reading:  Resilience, The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges, Steven M. Southwick, M.D. and Dennis S.Charney, M.D., 2012



Are You Doing What You Love?

happypigeonsHere is a stress-test scenario for you.  Are you doing what you love to do?  Whether at work or at home, are you engaged in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment?  Simple questions, really.  Unfortunately, when I ask these questions many people respond with a negative answer.  Most people say they are doing what they have to do to make a living, pay the mortgage and the bills, and work toward retirement.  Or they have to make dinner because the kids have to eat and if they don’t do it everyone starves.   Very few people say they are following their dream and that they find satisfaction and happiness in their daily activities.

Doing something that you do not want to do is one of the major ways to increase stress in your daily life.  It can lead to feelings of frustration and helplessness, especially if the act is continually repeated.  A good example is going to a job you hate everyday  because you need to pay the bills.  If you do it long enough, you may not even notice that your stress symptoms are off the charts.  After a while, we just accept it as a part of life.

So here is one way to fix that and lower the stress levels.  If you are doing something you do not want to do–don’t do it.  Seriously, it is that simple.   Think of the old joke about the man who goes to the doctor  because it hurts when he raises his arm.  The doctor’s answer is also simple–if it hurts, don’t do it.

Of course, there is a catch.  It may be a simple fix, but no one said that simple was easy.   I am not advocating that you walk away from your job and responsibilities because you don’t like going to office.  What I am suggesting is that you have a choice.   You may choose to  do something or not, but you need to be clear on why you are doing it if you want to lower stress and increase happiness.   In most cases, we do things we don’t like to do because we are not clear on what is motivating our actions.

Very often we do things because we think we should.  We chase the high paying job because we should–it proves we are successful.  We marry and have children because it is what we are supposed to do–everyone else does it.   We need to go to work everyday to pay for the car, the house, and all the stuff we have acquired.  We use that stuff to define ourselves and we need to maintain the definition.

Ultimately, motivation for our actions falls into three  categories:  want to, have to, or should.   Not surprisingly, stress levels increase across each category.    Doing something because we love it involves almost no stress at all.  We do it because it is in alignment with our core values, it feels right, and it is inspiring and fulfilling.  At the opposite end of the spectrum is doing something because we feel we should.  It usually has something to do with self-image, but is not in alignment with values, and doesn’t sit right with us when we do it.   Acting out of “should” can only increase stress levels correspondingly.  In the middle is doing things because we have to.  This is a means to an end or necessary to achieve something.   Feeling that we have to do something increases pressure and stress. The good news is that we have the choice to find other means to that end we are looking for.  We can always do something else to get where we want to go.

Once we define motivation and realize that we have a choice in all our actions, it becomes easier to change those actions–if we want to.

Another option is changing perspective.  Perhaps the job isn’t perfect  but we go because we love our family and want to provide for them.   Working then becomes a positive action with a positive outcome.  Some of the stress is automatically lessened when we view the situation in that light. The job may not be perfect, but it is better.   Again, the viewpoint is our choice.

One final thought on this simple fix:  not doing what you don’t want to do is not easy.  Especially if society and your inner critic is telling you that you should be doing exactly that.  However, it is worth the effort.   Remember, choices have consequences. If you can align your actions with your core values and draw motivation from there,  it doesn’t matter what others say.   Doing what you love can only increase your happiness and reduce stress.

And that is a pretty delicious way to live.

Check out my new group coaching program beginning  January 15, 2013.   Transform your life  From Surviving to Thriving in Six Weeks or Less!   Participation is limited so don’t be disappointed.   Reserve your space today.

Five Ways to Manage Stress

It is  no surprise that when asked to name the one thing they would most like to change in their workplace, employees almost always put stress levels at the top of the list.  What with downsizing, rightsizing, and endless budget cuts,  the mantra for so many companies these days is “do more with less”.   One of the phrases I often heard in management meetings during my corporate time was “suck it up and get over it.”   Unfortunately, this places an added burden on employees that remain after  layoffs which only increases individual stress levels.  With so much economic uncertainty, not only in the workplace but at home as well, it is no small wonder that most employees are looking for ways to minimize the effects of stress from their jobs.

The interesting thing is that everyone has a different idea of what stress is.  What bothers one person may not affect another at all.  Staff members at the Mayo Clinic define stress as a situation”when the demands placed upon a person exceed his or her capabilities.”   It is actually a good definition of stress since it place the responsibility on both the situation and the individual, not just the individual as do so many other definitions.   Reactions to stress are connected to a myriad of factors.  What bothers someone one day may not be an issue the next.   Lack of sleep, hunger,  the amount of exercise in a day–these are just a few things that  can play a part in a person’s reaction to stress.

The effects of stress are a problem not only for the employee, but the organization as well.   It is estimated that 75 to 90 percent of  all doctor visits are for stress-related conditions.  If stress levels are not addressed, chronic health conditions can develop such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.  Frequent colds are not uncommon for people suffering from chronic stress.  This all plays into a person’s productivity at work, increasing absenteeism and decreasing productivity.   These chronic health conditions have a direct impact on the healthcare costs of an organization and thus the overall profitability of that organization is reduced.  Therefore it seems like it would be in everyone’s best interest to address the stress levels in the workplace and explore ways to minimize the harmful effects of those conditions.

One of the most important things we can do is to set healthy personal boundaries.   With all the technology  flooding the market, we can no longer leave the office at the office.   People are now expected to be available  24/7, especially when the boss seems to live and breathe for their blackberry or iPhone.   Instead of making life easier,  the information age has actually had the opposite effect.  We expect results more quickly and judge ourselves and others if there is a lag time in response to an email or voice mail, even during the weekend.  The new term for this is  cerebral burnout, and is a very real condition.

Personal boundaries are one way to combat the possibility of cerebral burnout.   In today’s world it may not be realistic to think that not responding to emails or texts after the traditional end of the workday is acceptable.  But you can set a boundary as to when you will stop responding.  Let colleagues know that you put your phone away at 8:00 pm and don’t look at again until you start work the next day.  Starting work may be at the breakfast table and not when you hit the office, but  at least your coworkers or bosses will have a clear idea of when they will hear from you.   Not only does this allow you to have downtime without guilt, but  you can also begin to ween yourself off electronic devices in the evenings which will have a positive impact on the quality of sleep. Better sleep patterns contributes to a stronger ability to combat stress, so this is really a two-for-one  win.

Another great way to combat stress is to begin a program of mental training.  Used by athletes to focus on performance, mental training is a type of meditation.  Before you start each day, give yourself five or ten minutes and turn your attention to your breathing.  Think only of your breath as you inhale and exhale.   This will calm the mind, and slow down all that information zinging back and forth in your brain.  When your brain is quieter, it becomes easier to focus during the day, and the result is greater productivity.  Greater productivity naturally means less stress.

My favorite stress release is exercise.  Thirty minutes of cardio on a daily basis will have an unbelievable impact on the ability to cope in stressful situations. Other types of exercise such as yoga or tai chi show equally impressive results.   The benefits of exercise include improved brain function, neuron growth, the release of beta-endorphins, and  lower muscle tension.  It can also increase weight loss, a fact that most people would look at as the number one health benefit.

Speaking of lowering muscle tension–regularly scheduled massages can play a huge role in stress management.  Although many people still consider massage to be a luxury, muscle tension is perhaps the number one symptom of stress.  In addition to being painful, it can even compromise organ function over time.  Regular massage counteracts the effects of stress by decreasing muscle tension and increasing lymphatic drainage.  This helps to remove toxins from the body and allows better functionality.  Aside from that, a massage just feels good.  One note of caution–do not order a deep tissue massage if you are going for your first experience.   Although it may sound great, your muscles may not appreciate that much manipulation.  Try a swedish massage or a Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage for your first few treatments.

Make time to socialize–in person.   Social support is crucial in stressful situations, but not if the only support you receive is virtual. Face time ( and not on an iPhone) can help to put things in perspective and give the support you need to get through rough times.  It is so easy to let social connections slide when you are feeling overwhelmed, but that is precisely when real friendship matters the most.  So make it a point to get together with friends on a regular basis.  Schedule lunches, potlucks, or just a coffee date.  Better yet, make it a celebration and visit a spa with friends for an afternoon of bonding and massage.  Stress levels won’t stand a chance!

These are just five ways to combat stress.  When we think of stress, most of us focus on the workplace, but it is important to remember that stress can occur anywhere.  I know retirees with no financial worries who are more stressed-out than my executive friends.  It really is a matter of how you perceive situations and how your body reacts to them.  Of course, you can’t reduce stress levels without trying to increase levels of overall well being, but focusing on stress reduction is a good step in the right direction.

So what do you do to fight stress in the workplace or home front? I would love to hear the unique ways people have found to help them cope with our increasingly demanding world.

Are you ready to discover how the power of one-on-one coaching can help you focus on your health and reduce your own stress levels?  Click  here to schedule a complimentary strategic coaching session and see if wellness coaching is right for you.

Reality Check

Lately I’ve been hearing some misconceptions about what working with a wellness or life coach can do for you.  There seem to be some people who are looking for the ultimate fix.  The silver bullet that will eliminate all the issues standing between them and happiness.  I would love to say that as coaches, we have all the answers.   We can fix your life, remove all  barriers, and hand you an issue-free life on a platter.  I would love to say that.  And  I would be lying.

The truth is that a happy existence is not one free of strife or difficulties.  We all have good days and bad days.  Sometimes they are even great days or horrible days. Or weeks or months.   The difference, however, between having a happy existence or a miserable one lies in how we view and deal with  life’s challenges as well as its rewards.  Learning how to eliminate setbacks or problems is not the key to a happy life. The key to a happy life can be determined by our attitude and behavior when managing those setbacks or problems.

One of the most important tools for crafting a satisfying existence is very simple one.


Optimism is crucial to understanding that bad situations are temporary and will change at some point.  That understanding  is an incredibly powerful tool.  The people who hold this attitude are more likely to navigate through bad times more quickly and with less adverse effects than those who cannot see an end to a problem.

Sounds great.   But what if you are not someone who always sees the glass as half full?  Is there anything you can do to change that?

The short answer is–yes, you can.

One way to do this is to start with something called the Three Good Things Exercise.  Every evening for at least a week, write down three good things that happened to you during the day.  They don’t have to big things.  Could be getting a parking space close to the store.  Or they could be big things.  Getting a new job or promotion would count on that list.   For every item, ask yourself these questions.  1)  Why did this happen?  2) How does it effect you?  3)  Can you manifest more of this in the future? 4) Are you grateful for it?

This is a variation on the gratitude exercise  in which you list three things you are grateful for.  The purpose is to shift attention away from the negative and focus more on the positive aspects of daily life.  Guess what?  It works.  Research shows that more people maintained a positive attitude for a longer period after completing the exercise than those who did not.   And not to go all Pollyanna, but I can vouch for it from personal experience.

Another exercise is a bit longer but worth the time.  For one month, keep a record as to whether it was a good or bad day, and what happened that made you feel that way.  This doesn’t have a to be a long journal entry.  Just a few words to note the condition of the day.  When you review the entries at the end of the month, chances are you will notice a pattern between good and bad entries.  The results will most likely support the phrase “This, too shall pass”.  If you see a pattern emerge as to how you regard and react to difficult situations, it can be easier to recognize them as a temporary period when they arise in the future.  This exercise can also act as a springboard for a mindfulness practice, but more on that later.

It is impossible to eliminate difficulties in this life.  To strive for that is simply unrealistic.  But how we deal with adversity has a great deal to do with the quality of our lives.   As Sylvia Boorstein points out in her classic book  It’s Easier Than You Think,  managing life’s difficulties gracefully is a something worth striving for.

So if you want to bring a little more positivity into your outlook, why not give these two exercises a go.  It can’t hurt.   It doesn’t cost anything, doesn’t take a lot of time, no equipment needed, and just may change the way you look at life for the better.

And especially in today’s world,  a little extra positive energy in our attitude is something we could all benefit from.

Are you ready to discover how the power of one-on-one coaching can help you break down self-imposed barriers and reach your Personal Best?  Click  here to schedule a complimentary strategic coaching session and see if wellness coaching is right for you.

Ref: Flourish, Martin Seligman,  2011

Ref: It’s Easier Than You Think, Sylvia Boorstein, 1997

Reinvention as a Life Skill

There is a very interesting trend occurring in this country right now.  There is a whole generation of people wondering what they want to do when they grow up.  Now, this may not sound like anything new, but here is the twist.  This generation is not considering the senior prom.  They are considering retirement.

More and more people are looking to reinvent themselves and put new meaning into their lives.  For some this is a voluntary thing.  Perhaps the kids have grown and graduated and they are suddenly left with more free time.  Possibly some have reached a certain level in their careers when the expected percs and rewards no longer hold the same satisfaction.  For many, though, this decision may have been made for them, through no choice of their own.

There is no doubt that this economy has affected everyone at some level. But there is a group that is often overlooked when discussing the fallout.  That group consists of boomers near retirement, but not ready to retire, who suddenly find themselves without jobs.  These are people who have defined themselves by what they do for over half their lives, and in a matter of days they lose that point of reference.  These were the people who were comfortable with their lives.  They had made decisions along the way—sometimes sacrifices—so they would be able to enjoy a retirement on their terms and on their schedules.  Unemployment was not part of that plan.

One of the great things about a career, or raising a family, is that is keeps us busy.  We don’t always have time to ponder if our current reality is really what we want to do.  When those obligations suddenly disappear we can be left with the frightening realization that what we have been doing has not really been very satisfying.  As long as we had something to distract us, we could put aside the vague feeling that there must something more than just the next project, or perhaps planning the next vacation.  And while facing this realization is disconcerting at any age, it is doubly frightening when the solid foundation you thought you had built a life on suddenly seems to be crumbling.

I have spoken with more and more people lately who fall into this last category.  This is a group of people who suddenly have the time to step back and examine their lives rather than blindly living them.   With life expectancy increasing with each generation, these people are not ready to spend a quarter of their lives sitting idly by with a suduku or crossword puzzle to pass the time.  They may not want to go back to work full-time, but one thing is certain.  They want to be involved and they want make a difference.

Of course, the search for fulfillment is not unique to unemployed mid-life boomers.  It is occurring at all ages and in all levels of society.  People want to be happy, and fulfillment plays a huge role in that equation.  If you do not feel that you are contributing, that you are making a difference on some level, then most likely you will not really be satisfied with your life.  There are many factors that contribute to overall happiness, but the need to be a part of something greater than yourself is one of the overarching conditions that ensures authentic happiness.

They say necessity is the mother of invention.  If that is true, then I think it can also be said that change is the mother of reinvention.  Some people are very good at reinventing themselves—they seem to be able to weather change and come out the better for it.  Others seem to have more trouble.  They seem to get stuck without any idea of how to start the process, or what that process even looks like.

Here is a coaching exercise that can help get the party started.  If you are looking at making changes in your life but you aren’t sure what direction makes sense for you, then this may help.

Block out some time, sit down, and review the achievements in your life.  Go back as far as you can, possibly in ten-year increments, and write down things that you did that made you feel happy or proud.  This can be difficult for some people because they have been trained not to discuss their achievements or strong points.  That would be considered vain or immodest.  But no one is going to read this, and the point is to explore what you did that gave you a sense of satisfaction, and how you felt about yourself when you did it.  Be as detailed as you can, and paint a vivid picture.  You may find as you do this exercise that certain things come to mind that you had previously forgotten.

Once you have finished, set it aside for a day or so and then come back to it.  Read the narrative, and look for similarities in the things that made you happy.  Possibly it was learning new things.  Perhaps you were happiest when helping others in some way.  Maybe you felt the most satisfied while creating something, whether it was short story in High School, a watercolor in an adult ed class, photography on vacation, or even a new procedure for the office.

Aside from taking time to focus on yourself–always a good thing–this exercise does something else.  It acts as a blueprint or a roadmap, pointing out qualities or strengths that have contributed to your feeling of well-being in the past.  Oftentimes we don’t take the time to acknowledge how our actions make us feel, so we lose a vital piece of information that can be invaluable when we set out to craft the next section of our lives.  This exercise can help to clarify what types of activities are the most fulfilling for us and can start us thinking about ways to incorporate them into daily life as we begin our personal reinvention.

It is not a hard exercise, but it does take a bit of time.  However, the information from this self-reflection can have a very grounding effect when exploring all the possible options available. Once you have a clearer idea of what gives you a sense of satisfaction, you can have a better idea of the type of activities that should be included in your life going forward so it becomes one that is enriching and fulfilling.

Personal reinvention shouldn’t be seen as a last resort, forced on us by external circumstances.  It is a journey that anyone can begin at any time with a destination created by our own determination.   And from personal experience, I can vouch that it is a journey well worth taking.

Are you ready to discover how the power of one-on-one coaching can help you break down self-imposed barriers and reach your Personal Best?  Click  here to schedule a complimentary strategic coaching session and see if wellness coaching is right for you.

Just Thirty Minutes…Really?

A new study has been released that shows thirty minutes of daily exercise can be more beneficial than spending an hour a day working at that same exercise.  Results of the study revealed that those who exercised at a moderate pace for thirty minutes each day lost more weight than those who exercised for an hour.   The thirty-minute crowd worked out on a treadmill at a moderate pace, with increased intensity three days a week.  The key is to break a sweat during the workout.

The importance of exercise is nothing new, but the timing of this report coincides with my own personal experiment over the last couple of months.

One of my goals for this year was to reach a certain weight by my birthday. I wanted to weigh the same or less than I did ten years ago on that day.   I chose that goal because it was realistic, and meant that I would have to lose over ten percent of my body weight in about nine months or so.

I have always had a regular exercise routine, but over the last ten years the pounds slowly started adding up.  When it became clear in December that I would have to make some changes or give in and accept yet another waist size, I set my intention to be about twenty pounds lighter by September.

Along with changing my diet,  I increased my daily workout to fifty minutes six days a week, on the elliptical trainer or –my favorite—the Nordic Track Skier.  All went well for several months. I started to lose weight at a steady pace and was feeling pretty good about the whole thing.

And then the scale refused to budge.  Nothing, no difference, no matter what I did.  So I increased my time to an hour a day.  Still nothing happened.

Now, I have a tendency to be a bit OCD from time to time.  My first inclination was to exercise more, but I could see that would lead to hours-long workouts, and quite frankly I didn’t have the time for that everyday and couldn’t sustain that pace long-term.   So I decided to try a different approach.

I cut my cardio work back to thirty minutes daily, keeping my heart rate at about sixty percent, which is the recommended rate for weight loss.

And the scale started to move again—in the right direction.  It has been a couple of months now of this new schedule, and for me it is working.  I have reached my goal earlier than planned and feel great.

In wellness coaching, weight-loss is a major focus for clients.  The great news about this study is that thirty minutes a day is an achievable goal.  It doesn’t have to be time spent at a gym or a boot camp, either.  The key is deciding how to fit the time into your own schedule, and to make it something you enjoy doing.  Some people can get up earlier in the morning and work it into a morning routine.  For others that would be deadly. And it doesn’t have to be time on a treadmill or stair master.  Housework, walking the dog, or gardening–it all counts.  Exercise isn’t just for the gym anymore.  All you have to do is break a light sweat.

One of my clients recently was concerned about his weight.  Although not obese, he spends much more time behind a desk than he used to, and his weight has been increasing correspondingly.  The problem is that he has a very hectic schedule, a demanding job, and a long commute.  That kind of stacks the deck against him and makes exercise much more difficult.

We looked at the thirty-minute goal, and he decided it was achievable—on his terms.  Now he walks at lunch for fifteen minutes.   When he gets home, regardless of time, he climbs on a portable stair-master for ten to fifteen minutes.  Playing with his dog rounds out the daily requirement.   The goal was not to exercise for a thirty-minute stretch, since    that would be a set up for failure.  Instead, he worked it into his schedule on his terms and by doing so, he is much more likely to make the change a long-term habit.  Success at turning changes into long-term habits is one of the benefits of working with a wellness coach.

Already he has seen a drop in his weight, and as a bonus, is less bothered by stressful situations during the day.  Improved ability to cope with stress is one of my favorite side benefits to exercise, and it goes a long way to helping with overall wellness.

This is why I was so pleased to see this study the other day.  We all know that exercise is a key to health, but with all the infomercials about weight loss and exercise programs, it can be hard to know which is the best way to go.  Very often, the common-sense approach is the best approach.  It may not always be the most glamorous, but the results can be priceless.

No one would say that weight loss is easy.  Especially as we age it seems to become more and more difficult to lose those pounds.  But now we have another study that shows more effort is not always better.  Sometimes it really is a case of working smarter, not harder.

And for those of us who struggle with our weight, that is a very good thing.

Are you ready to see how the power of one-to-one coaching can help you break down barriers and reach your Personal Best?  Click  here to schedule a complimentary strategic coaching session and see if wellness coaching is right for you.

Positive Leadership Equals Positive Performance

Wouldn’t it be great to work in a place where you felt valued?  To feel that what you do in the organization makes a difference, and that the organization appreciates what you contribute on a daily basis?

Now some people may already work in this type of environment.  Other people may say I’m crazy for even thinking such a thing could exist.  But here is the neat part—these places do exist.  Even better, it is an environment that benefits not only the employee but the health of the company as well.

There is a management style that embraces something called positive leadership that Kim Cameron discusses in his book Positive Leadership, Strategies for Extraordinary Performance.   I was so excited after reading this book because it reflects how I had managed departments for years.  During my time in the corporate sector, I always felt that people were one of a company’s most important resources, especially working in a service industry as I had.  When you aren’t providing a physical object, the quality of the service offered by those that work for you becomes even more important.

Positive leadership is a very powerful tool that can grow a business faster and stronger than the more traditional management methods.  The concept behind positive leadership is rather simple and elegant.  A company that focuses on the strengths of the employees rather than the weaknesses will result in a culture of optimism rather than pessimism.  This culture has an affirmative bias–embracing the positive–rather than a negative bias. Supportive communication is valued more than negative communication and there is a general belief that people will thrive and produce more when surrounded by positive energy rather than negative.  This is similar to the way a plant will grow toward the light rather than the dark—humans react in much the same way.

So what is in this for a company that throws out the traditional management system of focusing on weakness and punitive action for as a means of improving performance?  Again it is rather simple—they are setting the stage for overall performance by individuals, and hence the company, that exceeds expectations.  Kind of neat, huh?

There are four strategies that will help a company leave the norm behind and experience exceptional performance.  They are strategies that cultivate positive climate, positive relationships, positive communication, and positive meaning.  Each one of these strategies is important by itself, but when an organization blends them together amazing things can happen.  Both individuals and the company can flourish.

This is not a Pollyanna management theory that ignores problems.  There will always be issues and challenges.  One of the problems with root-cause analysis management styles is that so much time is spent on identifying the problem that the negative aspects of an organization become the focus.  Positive leadership styles seek to elevate that which is exceptional in an organization.   It can be broken down into the simple idea that you should spend more time and energy cultivating what you want to grow.  If you focus only on the challenges faced on a daily basis, you will unintentionally stifle the growth of positive and vibrant energy in an organization.   Ultimately, it is this type of vibrant energy that will propel workers to provide exceptional service to the customers and the organization itself.

It may seem self-serving, but when a company promotes the idea of having individuals thrive at work, the company will thrive as well.  I have seen the effects of positive leadership as well as punitive-based leadership.  I have to say that positive leadership has provided better overall results, and a stronger more unified workplace team.  A team that feels valued and respected will always out-produce one that feels minimalized and unsupported.

As a wellness coach and consultant, I am always excited to see shifts toward positive action in the workplace.  Changing corporate culture is not an easy thing, but the rewards certainly justify the efforts.  We may not always like to admit it, but work is a major part of all of our lives.  Creating a culture that promotes positive emotions, strong interpersonal support systems, and an environment that promotes personal development and virtuous action will strengthen both the individual and the company involved.

When we feel good about going to work, going to place where our contributions are recognized and valued, something amazing happens.  Our sense of well-being improves, and the satisfaction that we feel at work spills over into other aspects of our lives.

And that is really one of the most positive rewards that we can get from a day’s work.

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