Terri Duguay – Managing Partner, Maigus
Change, disruption, and stress are here to stay. So, what can we do about it? Most of it, such as organizational change is out of our hands, leaving us feeling uncertain and drained due to a heightened sense of uncertainty and ambiguity. Complicating this is the expectation that we will be willing, enthusiastic and vital members of any change initiative, when all we really want is for things to stay the same – or at the very least – to be given some clarity as to what the change means to us.
For many of us, yes. However, not everyone experiences change the same way. We all know the person who not only survives through turmoil, but also thrives – coming out the other side in a better position than when she/he went in. The difference is often due to the strength of the individual’s resilience. In these times of constant change and disruption, strengthening resilience is the best thing we can do for ourselves, our teams and our organizations. Resilience is our ‘competitive advantage’ for successfully managing change in an age of disruption.
So How Do I Do It?
There are many opinions out there on how we can improve our resilience. However, most of the top experts agree that the one key strategy is to cultivate a positive outlook. Neuroscientist Dr. Rick Hanson, has written books and blogged on how consciously focusing on positive emotions and experiences, can rewire our brains to have a more positive outlook. Dr. Linda Hoopes, author and founder of Resilience Alliance, positions positivity as one of the key characteristics possessed by resilient people. Barbara Fredrickson, Professor of Psychology at University of North Carolina, has research demonstrating how positive emotions can open our minds and expand our worldview.
Fredrickson and Hoopes are similar in that their research and studies clearly demonstrate that people who have more positivity view change, and the ensuing disruption, with more of an open mind. Instead of just seeing threat, these people can step back and see the larger picture – providing greater options and increased agility. Hanson and Fredrickson also agree that cultivating positivity has long-lasting effects. Both have scientifically proved that a focused, deliberate effort to cultivate positivity will result in rewiring the key parts of the brain associated with increased decision making and rationality – which is helpful when facing turmoil.
The Good News:
This is not a “Pollyanna” approach to positivity. In fact, trying to force or pretend to be positive can have a detrimental effect, as we still need negative emotions and feelings for survival and these are hardwired – like early warning systems. Nor should we strive to be positive all the time – we just need to be more positive than negative. If positivity is developed gradually, in a genuine, sincere manner we begin to look at situations differently, forming neuro pathways and habits that focus more on more positive outcomes – and less on negative ones.
The Benefits Of Cultivating Positivity:
During change, positivity is what helps us to stay open to possibility and potential, so we can regain a sense of control which in turn, gets us out of victim mode and back into the driver’s seat of our lives and careers.
Over To You:
Fredrickson says, “If we increase our daily diet of positive emotions, we come out three months later being better, stronger, more resilient, more socially connected versions of ourselves.” (https://ed.ted.com/on/MsjdksQK). We can increase our daily diet by making positive experiences and emotions a priority. We need to deliberately seek out enjoyable life experiences. We need to make time for what we enjoy, and we need to be fully present for the experience.
Hanson says, we need to “hardwire happiness” and wrote a book and how we can do this – Hardwiring Happiness, 2013. In short, when we experience something positive, let it sink in. Take the time to be fully present for those small day-to-day smiles – something as simple as an enjoyable conversation or a scenic view is all that it takes. Focusing on the small things, on a daily basis, will add up over time to make positivity come more naturally.
Hoopes’ research shows that when we consciously tune into our “self talk” we can foster a more optimistic – and by extension – positive outlook. Focusing on “self talk” gives us clues as to our emotional orientation, positive or negative. If your “self talk” has you convinced that there is little hope, or influencing situations lies beyond you, then you might want to consider adopting a more optimistic outlook by asking yourself the following questions:
- Is there good evidence to support my assumptions?
- Are there other possible assumptions that are at least as likely and are more optimistic?
- Is the situation as bad as I think it is?
- Is it helpful for me to think this way right now?
A Final Word:
You are not going to get immediate results by applying any of the above once or twice. Regardless of whether you subscribe to Fredrickson’s increased daily dose of emotions – such as gratitude, joy, inspiration or serenity, or Hanson’s hardwiring happiness, it will take both time and a concentrated effort. However, the pay-off for this effort is not feeling battered, helpless or victimized by change or circumstances. Recognizing that you have some control over how you react to change – and possibly even deciding to embrace change is a choice that you can make. This is priceless when facing the uncertainty, disruption and fear that change can trigger in us.
Are You Ready?
To be the person, or organization, that reaps the benefits of change? Then the next step is to increase your resilience by starting to consciously cultivate more positivity into your world.
Where are you going to get your dose of positivity today?
Hanson, Rick. Hardwiring Happiness, 2013
Fredrickson, Barbara. https://ed.ted.com/on/MsjdksQK
Hoopes, Linda. Prosilience: Building Your Resilience for a Turbulent World, 2017
Copyright: Maigus 2018
Originally published at maigus.com