The problem with positive psychology…

It’s fairly well documented in popular psychology and management theory that having a positive mindset has a lot of benefits. Shawn Achor wrote an entire book called The Happiness Advantage, which shares that the brain works significantly better at positive as opposed to negative, neutral or stressed. In fact, Achor reports that when in a positive frame of mind; productivity improves by 31%, we’re 40% more likely to receive a promotion, and nearly 10 times more engaged at work. Pretty impressive stuff.

The problem I have is this: simply knowing the statistics doesn’t put me in a positive frame of mind. In fact, sometimes being told these facts can cause the opposite of the desired effect to occur – think about how you feel when someone says “cheer up, it might never happen”.

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So we know the science, and we know the reality. How can we use this in a way that best serves our personal and professional development?

When I first dabbled with the idea of becoming a coach, I saw things as very black and white. Two years ago, I could justifiably look at myself and say “I don’t have the skills and experience to become a coach”, and left it at that. And I did leave it at that for a while. Then I started asking myself better questions: “what can I do to develop the skills and experience to become a coach?”. This was not a question I knew the answer to immediately, but it was a question I kept front of mind, and starting exploring with people in my extended network.

I learnt over time how to foster a growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed one. Rather than focusing on the problem (I don’t yet have the skills and experience), I focused on the solution (how can I get the skills and experience?).  This was not a dismissal of the facts. It was not a “let’s all think happy thoughts and hope for the best” approach. It was accepting the current situation, and then turning my attention to how I could approach my current shortcomings.

Things often seem impossible when we don’t know how to do them, but by focusing my attention on possibilities rather than problems, I was able to continue taking small steps in the direction I wanted to go, which eventually led to completing an accredited coaching qualification and setting up my own business.

Historically, I have favoured all or nothing, clear cut thinking. Things were right or wrong, good or bad, and I could either do something or I couldn’t. Since practising adopting a solutions-focused approach along with a growth mindset, I have already achieved things that once seemed impossible.

All or nothing thinking can be comforting, as you can safely put yourself in certain categories (even now I still confidently state “I am a terrible map reader”) but I also think if we stick with this kind of rigid thinking, it can limit us and keep us safely boxed away in our comfort zone.

If you don’t start exploring ideas and possible solutions, you never know what might happen. You might even find you end up with a more positive mindset.

What questions could you ask yourself today to start focusing on possibilities rather than problems?

I’m excited to announce the launch my new programme called ‘Create a Career You Love‘. This takes the best parts from my previous coaching packages and uses a more structured approach with exercises to identify your biggest career priorities before beginning the career coaching. The first step is completely free, so let me know if you’d like to book your initial consultation in

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