Written by Steve Mores
I’d like to start out with a disclaimer here that I am not a licensed psychiatrist or therapist. So, when it comes to clinical or medical challenges regarding mental health, please seek professional help. What I would like to discuss are some of my thoughts based on observations from the field, as well as books and articles related to positive thinking and happiness. I believe we can all agree for the most part, happy people are more productive and do things for a belief or cause rather than for a need. They tend to do positive things for their customers and company because they want to, not because they have to. The cool thing is, notwithstanding an event that causes you stress or sadness, you can choose to be happy or not. Let’s discuss some simple exercises you can do with your team to keep them in the Happy Zone!
Many positive thinking gurus tell us over and over again that there is power in positive thinking. I don’t devalue what they say or written, since it’s all good advice to live by. Yet when I have attended seminars or read books and articles on the subject, I have noticed that many of the people in attendance or reading these are usually already positive and motivated. We just like to hear and read more about it. What about those that are stuck in a rut and don’t want to hear it?
From Mahatma Gandhi, Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Zig Ziglar, and others, we hear a similar message: We are likely to experience positive results with positive thinking and unwanted outcomes from negative thinking. Positive and negative thoughts can become self-fulfilling prophecies and what we expect can often come true.
Accordingly, what they say is that if you believe you’re going to make a mistake, the chances are that you probably will. This is because you already have a preconceived notion that you will fail and won’t put the proper effort or seek support from others.
Positive thinking, on the other hand, is often associated with positive actions and outcomes. You’re drawn to and focus on the positive aspects of a situation. You have hope and faith in yourself and others, and you work and invest hard to prove that your optimism is justified. You’ll motivate and enthuse others, and they will want to help you succeed in your efforts. This will instigate positive productive outcomes.
What it comes down to is this: Positive, optimistic people are happier and healthier and enjoy more success than those who think negatively. The key difference between them is how they think and interpret the events in their life.
So, if you have naysayers and negative employees that have constant contact with your customers, they will have a negative impact on your business. Plus they are unhappy, which makes you unhappy, and gives your customers a bad customer experience.
The solution is to have a meeting and just tell your employees to be happy and positive. It’s that easy!
We wish it was! The first step to changing negative thinking into positive thinking is to become aware that you’re being negative in the first place. And this is not so much for someone that is “having a bad day”, as much as it is for the chronic negative thinker. Allow me to illustrate:
Keep my disclaimer in mind. For the purposes of this discussion and not for clinical evaluation or diagnosis, this illustration graphically represents different positive and negative thought processes. The left part of the curve represents the past. We can’t change it, but we have two ways of dealing with it: We can dwell on the negative things that have happened to us, which drives us to unhappiness, or we can learn from the past, which gives us the wisdom to make positive changes in the present. We can stay on the depressive negative low end of the curve or move up to wisdom which creates happiness in the present.
The right side of the curve represents the future. There are two ways of dealing with the future as well: We can constantly worry about negative things that might happen, or doing everything you can in the present to have a positive impact on the future. You can hang out on the anxiety-stricken low end of the curve or move up the curve with hope for the future, which creates happiness in the present as well.
Suffice it to say, the way we think of the past will result in the way we act today, which determines our outlook on the future. We can effectively start changing our outlook from negative to positive with a few simple exercises. These even help the person with an already positive outlook to move higher up on this curve.
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Wayne Dyer
“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” Plutarch
We can hand our team books or podcasts on positive thinking, yet many won’t take the time or the effort to read or listen to them. So, here are some things to move them along this upward path.
- When your team members come into the office, ask them, “how’s it going” and note their reply. Whatever their reply is, have them change it to “Great!” or better. “Good” becomes “Great!”, “OK” becomes “Great!”, “Surviving” becomes “Great!” and so on. If they say, “I’m doing great!” have them change “great!” to “awesome!” Hold them accountable every time you ask. At first, they may say it sarcastically, yet over time, it will become a positive habit and starts the attitude change from negative to positive and positive to super positive.
- According to Aristotle, we strive for happiness in everything we do, and he distinguishes between four different levels of happiness. Things – Yourself – Others – Life. Meaning: 1) material things, 2) self-accomplishments, 3) doing good things for others, and 4) the search for the ultimate perfect happiness in life. The fourth one is the most difficult to describe. Some fulfill this desire through spirituality or religion, others through philosophy, art, or scientific endeavors. There’s no definitive or universal answer. You have to find your own calling!
Psychologists found that those who are grateful and practice giving thanks to others have significantly higher levels of happiness than those who do not. They studied a practice called the “Three Good Things” exercise, and found that it significantly increases happiness by making us more aware of what gives us joy.
This exercise is a simple one to promote to your team. At the end of each day, have them write down three positive things, large or small that they experienced during the day. They could relate it to Aristotle’s four levels of happiness. (I had a great sandwich for lunch; I received a bonus for getting a customer happily involved in an IAQ system; I helped an elderly customer by changing a light bulb; I said a prayer in petition for someone in need.) Those that undertake this practice report that they are significantly happier than those who did not.
- A similar exercise is to write a gratitude list of things that you are thankful for. Then read this list everyday first thing in the morning. Many successful people attribute part of their success and most of their happiness to writing and reading their gratitude list daily.
Start your team off by asking them to write down three things that they are grateful for. Don’t over complicate it. It could be as simple as being thankful for daily meals, a comfortable home, and good friends. Have them add something new to the list every day or when they think of something new. Ask them to read it every morning and this helps radiate joy all day long.
This can then develop into a more involved yet still simple process. Oprah keeps a daily journal and lists the things she is grateful for that happened to her each day. She has been doing this for years and says it is the key to her being stable and happy. Arianna Huffington shares her journal with friends, and they exchange what they are thankful for.
Google it and you will find many ways of doing this, simple things to be grateful for (a great cup of coffee), and testimonials from successful people we know and many we don’t. All with a common theme: Every day is a mixture of good things and bad things that happen, and a gratitude list helps you focus on the good, which drives us to be positive and happy.
Thanksgiving Day comes only once a year, but a gratitude list makes it a daily habit of starting your day on a positive note. Sometimes, we have to remind ourselves that there are many good things in our life that we need to be thankful for.
These simple exercises will help your team change negative, nonproductive behavior to positive, productive, happy attitudes. It won’t happen overnight. Studies show that it takes 21 – 90 days of doing something new or stopping something old to change a habit. But this will go a long way in improving customer relations, employee retention, and build a culture where everyone works together to improve their careers, the company, and the lives of others. This also extends into positively influencing relationships outside of work.
Just telling someone they need to be more positive or to “quit being so negative” doesn’t change their attitude or behavior. In some cases, they will take offense, and it will make things worse. Start them out with these simple exercises and they will want to expand it from there. Everyone wants to be happier, so show them the way!
Try it! It’s fun and it works. Then, you can add “I helped my employees become happier and more positive” to YOUR gratitude list!
Steve Mores is the Vice President of Residential Sales and Training at Dynamic Air Quality Solutions.
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