Make Negatives Positive

Wanda Lipscomb-Vasquez, Program Director of Business Services at weVENTURE, offers some advice for those in business who generally see the glass as half empty. First of all, she gives some examples of negative vs. positive thinking. When assigned a job by his boss, Bill thinks, “I will probably fail,” but he should be thinking, “I will try my best.”

When faced with a challenge do you anticipate failure, or do you focus on putting forth your best effort?

How about this choice of self-comments when faced with a difficult task: “I don’t know what I’m doing,” vs. “I can learn.” Which approach is likely to give you the confidence to go forward? Along those same lines, “I can’t do this,” vs. “What a great opportunity.” Once again, putting your thoughts in a context of opportunity to succeed, not a recipe for disaster, puts you in a frame of mind where you can move forward to meet the challenge, and not run and hide out of fear of failure.

Lipscomb-Vasquez adds that in business, it is good to surround yourself with positive-minded people and to find a mentor to help you identify attainable goals and formulate a plan to reach them. Others can also help you stay focused on the task and receive regular feedback about how you’re doing. We bet this feedback loop is often missing in your everyday life, but it’s crucial to success. If you don’t know where you are presently, you can’t evaluate your progress realistically.

Finally, your proposal your boss wants should include a plan that is based on realistic optimism, not pie-in-the sky fantasy. Progressive steps can help in this respect. Kevin presents his production plan to the Board and says, “Within a month we will increase output by 25%.” Who are you kidding, Kevin? Brianna, on the other hand, has a plan that seeks “1-2% growth each month with a year-end goal of 15% growth.” As a Board member, which plan are you choosing?

We touch on these principles regularly in this blog because they are cornerstones of effective coping: View challenges as opportunities, not threats; identify what you can and cannot control; devise a plan to improve those things under your control; regularly monitor how the plan is going; keep your optimism and goals for the plan realistic. This last one is particularly important because it will help keep you from believing too much in the “power of positive thinking.” Positive thinking can be a great boost to your coping efforts, but in the final analysis it is not thinking at produces results; it is positive action that does so.

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