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Optimism is a powerful emotion, here's how to use it to your advantage.
Positivity is a skill that seems to be increasingly falling by the wayside. The media provides us daily with an onslaught of negativity. It can feel tough not to fall into a trap of misery and despair. Yet we have a choice about how we respond to our circumstances.
Positivity is not the ability to block out emotions when shit happens. It’s important to feel emotions when they hit you. It’s how we grow and learn. However, the ability to brush yourself off and bring hope and energy back into life is a very useful skill indeed.
We all know the author J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter book series which to date has sold more that 400 million copies worldwide and made her the first author billionaire.
However, a chunk of JK Rowling’s back history was tough – caring for her mother (who subsequently died), an abusive relationship followed by raising her child alone in poverty. It took 13 attempts to get a publisher to take her first book on.
She was advised also to take a day job as the book was unlikely to sell well. Negativity surrounded her, yet she strove to make her life as happy and dynamic as it could be. Rowling explains here how she processed her situation:
“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me.
"Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea.
"And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
The best leaders I know are super aware of their impact. How they show up, the energy they bring, the way they respond to challenges are all conscious decisions because they know that their energy dictates not only how their work and life will unfold but how everyone else will behave around them.
At Upping Your Elvis, we help businesses bring energy to all that they do. Part of this journey involves training people to be great creative facilitators. The first thing we do is help them realise the importance of how they show up.
Creativity feeds off a sense of possibility, an openness to explore, a permission to express, to make new connections…to play. These are all behavioural traits. If you want people to embody these things, you need to go first. To quote Ghandi: “Be the change you want to see”.
Oprah Winfrey was once asked what she wished she had learnt earlier in life and her answer was ‘I wish I had known how to distinguish radiators from drains’. Not the plumbing kind but the people kind.
Radiators beam warmth, kindness, love, happiness and enthusiasm. They smile when you walk into a room, are genuinely interested in others and make you feel good about yourself. Radiators bring out the very best in people.
Drains have a more negative outlook on life and their glass is always half-empty…when they walk in the room, the hope leaves it!
And to add to the rewards, research has proven time and again that optimism is good for your health - you recover better from surgery, have stronger immune systems and live longer.
We have a choice how we look at life, but only if we have awareness. If you’re aware you can ask yourself the fantastic question ‘what’s needed here’? You can then make the conscious decision to radiate the behaviour and energy that would be most useful in that situation.
When it comes to leading a creative session or a creative culture for that matter, embodying positivity both physically and mentally is the key to success.
Martha Washington, former First Lady of the United States, summed up this learning in the 18th Century “I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.”
I’ve been in creative sessions before now which have started with the boss coming into the room and announcing that ‘If we don’t solve this problem then we’re all screwed!’ I don’t know about you, but I find my creative sphincter puckers up in these situations.
It’s easy to be positive when things are all moving along nicely. It’s when the shit hits the fan that it’s important to embody hope and positivity because only then can you come up with exciting, fresh, creative solutions.
So, my top tip is this. Get into the habit of taking a deep breath before you walk into the office, meeting room or arrive home. It will slow everything down, feed your brain oxygen and give you a little clarity.
With this awareness, check in with how you’re feeling. Is this the behaviour and energy you want to radiate? If it’s not (you can always fine tune it), change it. It’s that simple.
Life’s too short to be a miserable fucker.
There are many things you cannot control, but one that you can is how you show up. Make the effort and surprise yourself with the power and the sense of possibility it generates.
Jim Lusty is a partner at Upping Your Elvis, helping businesses become more human, energetic and creative.
Life’s Too Short To Be A Miserable F***er – Stay Positive