My driving force in business has always been enthusiasm. I’m easily amazed and get curious and fired up about many different things. In fact, I refuse to work on anything that does not grab me in that way.
I remember one meeting I had with a woman who was… let’s say slightly less positive. At one point in the meeting, she said “You’re very positive, arent you?” I had to agree, that that was indeed so. It was only after the meeting that I realized that she’d meant it as criticism :o)
Positivity has been getting a bad rap at work. If you’re too positive you can be accused of being pollyannaish, uncritical, unrealistic, silly, etc… “Well,” some people say, “it’s all very good for you to be so optimistic but some of us have to work in the real world.”
And while there are many great reasons to be more positive at work, there’s one I’d like to mention specifically:
Being positive at work means you get lucky at work.
(no, not in that way)
Yes, it’s true: Being positive makes you lucky.
Richard Wiseman (not a bad last name for a professor, btw) is a psychologist who has been researching luck. He’s built up a database of people who feel either extremely lucky or extremely unlucky and has examined the differences between these two groups to determine why it is that:
Lucky people meet their perfect partners, achieve their lifelong ambitions, find fulfilling careers, and live happy and meaningful lives. Their success is not due to them working especially hard, being amazingly talented or exceptionally intelligent. Instead, they simply appear to have an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time and enjoy more than their fair share of lucky breaks.
He has found that lucky people do four things that unlucky people don’t. They:
1: Maximise Chance Opportunities
Lucky people are skilled at creating, noticing and acting upon chance opportunities. They do this in various ways, including networking, adopting a relaxed attitude to life and by being open to new experiences.
2: Listen to Lucky Hunches
Lucky people make effective decisions by listening to their intuition and gut feelings. In addition, they take steps to actively boost their intuitive abilities by, for example, meditating and clearing their mind of other thoughts.
3: Expect Good Fortune
Lucky people are certain that the future is going to be full of good fortune. These expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies by helping lucky people persist in the face of failure, and shape their interactions with others in a positive way.
4: Turn Bad Luck to Good
Lucky people employ various psychological techniques to cope with, and often even thrive upon, the ill fortune that comes their way. For example, they spontaneously imagine how things could have been worse, do not dwell on the ill fortune, and take control of the situation.
So how can you become lucky at work? By being more positive! It’s clear that implementing the four things on Wiseman’s list means being more positive and optimistic – seeing the good in a bad situation, expecting good things to happen etc. I’ve tried it myself many times, and it works.
My most striking example is from 2003, when we arranged our first business conference about Happines At Work. There were six of us working on it and none of us had ever done anything similar before. Still, we needed to find speakers, arrange a venue, get press attention, get a website, arrange catering, setup 15 workshops at the conference and, not least, sell a lot of tickets.
This was in the early days of the company and the question was: Could a group of people with no experience working on a shoestring budget put together a professional business conference?
Our basic approach to the whole project was “Yeah, sure it’s impossible. Let’s do it anyway.” We totally believed that we could do it. And here’s the fantastic thing: Everything just fell into place. We couldn’t believe our luck. We needed a website – I ran into Niels Hartvig who makes the excellent web platform Umbraco, and he offered to host it for free. We needed a great design – and he Niels knew an amazingly talented designer who did it for free. We needed some press attention – and just when I was about to call some journalists a woman walked up to my desk and said “Hi, I’m a journalist, and I’d really like to do a story about you”.
It went on and on like that – everything we needed fell into place so easily it almost got scary at one point. And I believe that this happened at least in part because we were positive and subconsciously used Wiseman’s four principles. Also, because we were optimistic we were fun to be around and therefore attracted a lot of great people who wanted to work with us.
I think it’s time we brought more positivity into the workplace. Not that we can’t also be critical (constructive criticism is absolutely essential in the workplace), but being critical already comes easy to most people in the business world. I say we should practice positivity more. And get lucky!
How to be more positive at work? Here are a few ideas:
- Use Appreciatice inquiry. It’s one of the best tools for effective change I have ever used.
- Start meetings positively
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