Positive Psychology: The Key to an Optimistic Mindset

Are you, like me, committed to living a happy life? Being a positive thinker is a big part of unlocking true happiness. While it may seem obvious, it is definitely not always easy to have a positive outlook. We’ve all been there, the odds may seem stacked against us, the obstacles may seem to never let up, and the rainy days may seem to outweigh the sunny ones. However, when I utilize the techniques of Positive Psychology, I’m able to achieve this goal of living through conscious happiness day in and day out.

Positive Psychology focuses on strengths and what’s working rather than on problems. This strategy applies to both individuals and companies. Unfortunately, our brains are wired for the opposite of that — we go straight to the negative. Research done by Aaron Antonovsky shows that by focusing on the positives, we can better fulfill the potential of individuals and organizations.

How do we utilize positive psychology and change our focus to what is working? We need to channel our curiosity by remaining open-minded and asking questions that allow us to identify the success stories that we can rally behind. To get to the heart of issues using Positive Psychology, ask questions phrased positively. Instead of asking what is wrong, ask what is going well, what is working, and how can we succeed more. Don’t ignore what is not working as part of a broader view, but start with the “good story.” Why? Antonovsky’s research shows that understanding the roots of suffering does not bring change. And, if we shift to studying those people and organizations thriving, we can find and understand the reasons for their success and replicate them.

The questions that we ask, and how we ask them, determine our reality and the reality of those around us.

In our desire to be successful in our interpersonal relationships, or even our relationship with ourselves, we often mistakenly focus on issues we are critical of — meaning what needs to be fixed and doesn’t work. I’m sure you have been there before, looking at the cracks in the foundation rather than thinking creatively about how to make that foundation stronger. We overlook the fantastic, wonderful things about partners. We accept being overwhelmed by the prospect of a laundry list of things going wrong, instead of accepting the challenges optimistically. Most relationships can’t fulfill their potential due to this negative bias we project. We must consciously focus on appreciating the positive and sharing the feedback with our partners and ourselves, such as saying, “What I appreciate about you is…” As a reformed perfectionist, I can say first hand, it is not easy. Changing our bias takes a conscious effort and lots of practice.

The same is true in our professional lives. Some managers seldom acknowledge the successes and contributions of employees yet eagerly share their criticism. This makes it nearly impossible for employees to have healthy self-esteem and confidence which, when encouraged, can ultimately lead to better performance. The key to getting the results you want and overcoming the challenges you face in work and life is finding your strength in actionable positivity versus letting the tempting wave of negativity overpower you.

I encourage you to take a couple of minutes and think about your daily interactions. Are you positive to be around because you are looking for the “good” in life? Are you seeking out employees doing great things and asking how they can share their contributions and successes with others? Do you compliment your partner for their special gifts in your relationship?

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Kim Martin