Are you able to immediately see the positive side in every situation?

Me neither.

It takes me a couple of minutes to get through the negative reaction and to see the infinite positive possibilities.

Two weeks ago, I started my week with a freshly brewed cup of coffee at hand, kicking off my usual “Monday Planning” session at 8 AM. I felt great after my cycle, but as soon as I opened my calendar, I immediately got deflated. I had 19 interviews, 12 1:1 sessions, and a couple of team meetings. The following week looked similar. My immediate reaction was frustration, as I was clearly not going to be able to move the needle in any of the initiatives I was working on, and my team meetings were going to have to be squeezed down to 25 minutes.

As I sat in front of my calendar, I was reminded about a term I had learned just that weekend: mental redecoration. By simply flipping my thinking on its head, I was able to transform a negative emotion into a positive one, allowing me to feel energised by the work I was about to do for two solid weeks.

I actively practice positivity in my life. I genuinely dig for the positive in every scenario, and when that is not possible, I try to at least laugh.  But having a process for doing it makes me turn those situations around quicker.

Below is my simple guide to seizing opportunities, welcoming the chaos, and transforming your environment into a positive one.

Control the Controllable

Our emotions, especially at times of uncertainty, can be like rollercoasters. One day you feel positive, the next you feel overwhelmed, and the next you feel hopeless, only to start all over again. First and foremost, know that is ok to feel this way.

If acknowledging your feelings is the  first step on the road to high performance, managing your reaction is the second.

“I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”.  – Charles R. Swindoll

While my first reaction to a busy calendar was frustration, I took a step back to see the full picture. Here is what I could see immediately:

  1. Two weeks filled with interviews might be frustrating, but it means that my team is growing at a time when other companies are having to let go of amazing talent. I was immediately grateful for my good fortune. 
  2. The pool of talent available in the market right now is amazing and I will be connecting with some of the top people in customer success. Those conversations are meaningful and have the potential to teach me so much more about our industry. Suddenly, I felt excited.

The newly gained perspective I gained through mental redecoration genuinely shifted how I felt. From that moment on, my language, my behaviour and my attitude improved. On top of that, I was able to share this thinking with colleagues that were going through similar experiences.
So, the next time you feel a negative emotion about something – be it a change in your routine or some seemingly bad news – try stopping, acknowledging the feeling, and flipping it on its head. If anything, it will help you become more empathetic.

(Some news will still suck from every angle, but you can at least try)

Document your Pivot

I am a huge advocate of journaling. I believe that a lesson learned and documented will stick. That little by little, these small steps will change the very fabric of our brains due to neuroplasticity. So, every time I have a great lightbulb moment of mental redecoration, I write it down. It’s amazing to look at the things that happen during one week that, were you to ignore, would  become little frustrations and complaints.

As part of my Friday journaling routine, I condense my notes from the week into my notebook and compare to the previous week. This exercise in itself can be quite revealing, as you might uncover trends that you might miss otherwise.  For example, I have a particularly bad immediate attitude towards change in priorities mid-week, after I have already locked my calendar. I don’t immediately welcome that chaos. By identifying this trait, I can communicate to others more effectively and continue to look at ways I can adapt so I can become more nimble.

Here is how you can do this in an (almost) admin-free way:

  • Leave your favourite note-taking app open at all times. Create a file that you will use for this
  • When you feel that negative emotion, write the scenario down
  • Try to think about angles in which this situation might be positive

Reinforce Positivity

My last point on this is about your environment. Jim Rohn famously said, “You’re the average of the five people spend the most time with”. As a leader, I take this seriously. I make it my responsibility to elevate the rooms I enter and to challenge those around me to think positively. I also have a bias toward action. Unfortunately, negativity tends to turn into a cycle of endless complaints with no constructive action to improve a situation.

In businesses, things often go wrong when you don’t accept change. Many fail to seize opportunities and hinder growth. Recently, we talk a lot of adaptability and resilience as key traits of successful people. To add to this, in order to be a successful leader, you must inspire and build those traits in others too. I believe you can do that when you create an environment, where the team is always challenging each other’s negative perceptions and are able to see the opportunities that chaos presents.

You can implement this in one simple way: Use your mental redecoration process every time you hear someone else complaining. More often than not, when done well in an environment that is psychologically safe, this will inspire others to think differently and even do the same when they see others caught up on a negative cycle

You cannot control what happens to you, only how you react. You can be tailwind or headwind. Becoming a master of mental redecoration and reinforcing positivity will allow you to grow and will empower those around you to live a more fulfilling and positive life. Who wouldn’t want that?

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