Happiness isn’t found at the next place

Positive Thinking Really Works

Guest post by Edge Foundation Executive Director, Sarah Wright from her September ACO President’s letter

I  recently attended the Institute of Coaching conference co-sponsored by Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital. I want to share the exciting perspective of  Carol Kauffman and Margaret Moore, who presented Positive Psychology: Science at the Heart of Coaching.

The power of positive thinking

Focusing on our problems is normal:  Everyone tends to focus on problems. It’s probably evolutionary in nature-we evolved in a dangerous world where being able to notice threats was key to survival. Therefore,  negative, troublesome, threatening things tend to capture our attention like nothing else. Yet narrow and negative thinking can lead to stress and depression, which can lower performance and reduce connectedness, both in relationships and in thoughts.

The power of positive thinking: A broad and positive focus helps you identify more resources and make more connections. Positivity-feeling good-helps creativity, perseverance, confidence, competence, and even longevity. It is tempting to feel that health, wellness, and financial success are what contribute to happiness, but it turns out that happiness predicts these things, not the other way around.

In further studies of positivity and negativity, it turns out there is an ideal ratio between the two. The ideal ratio of positivity to negativity is between 3:1 and 11:1. In other words at least 3 positive thoughts to each negative one.  In this range, people have the resources to change, grow, and bounce back from adversity. They feel both supported and challenged, which develops resourcefulness and creativity. Business teams operating in this ideal zone have the highest profitability, customer satisfaction, and performance reviews.

Too much of a bad thing:  People who live in an environment where the positivity to negativity ratio is below 3:1 languish. They don’t have enough resources and inspiration to pick themselves up out of the muck and see all the things that are available to them. Unlike the more positive folks, they are on a downward spiral. Sadly, it is estimated that 80% of people fall into this category.

Turn up the positive volume!

Notice, remember, articulate and savor what is already there. Practice noticing the good stuff, because there is plenty of it around. From the aroma of that first cup of coffee in the morning (even if we made a mess making it), to the parting “Bye! I love you. Have a nice day!” (even if we had to say it several times because we kept forgetting things as we tried to get out the door), to the great coaching session where both feel pumped by the end, there’s a lot to notice and feel positive about. Notice, too, how we contributed to the good stuff, notice how we are actively creating the positive experiences. Then allow yourself to feel empowered to improve your life and develop your resourcefulness and creativity!

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