“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at…change.”
I once had a client who was looking to change careers. She wanted to follow her passion and get a job in the environmental and sustainability sector, which was quite specialized and in a very competitive market.
After a few months of coaching and preparation, she started interviewing for a position and was very excited about a particular job where she had made the final cut – management was going to decide between her and another candidate.
Unfortunately, she didn’t get the job. She was very disappointed and started to question her professional competence.
Can she really transition to a new career?
Maybe it’s too competitive and she is just wasting her time.
I was quite surprised at her thoughts because what I know of this client is that she is highly intelligent, very resourceful and well-respected at the organization she currently worked for. She would be a great asset to the right company.
Yet, the setback she experienced caused her a great deal of stress and anxiety.
Our stress doesn’t usually come from events or situations, but from how we interpret them.
It is critical to understand this, because things aren’t always what they seem. By changing the way we think, we can often change the way we feel, which directly affects what actions we will take and therefore the results we will achieve.
Thinking Positively Does Help
I’m sure you know people who tell you to be positive. They say things like, “Look for the silver lining,” or “Look on the bright side.” Those people may even be a bit annoying at times with their ever-sunny disposition, but there’s actually a benefit to having a positive attitude.
1. A positive attitude makes you feel better, which makes your day more enjoyable and productive than when you focus on what you cannot do.
If you believe something to be true, it really does have a better chance of coming true. If you believe, for example, “I can reach my work targets,” “I can lose weight,” or “I can get out of debt and save money” then you have a better chance of succeeding. Our mind is very powerful and our thoughts and the language we use affects our beliefs, actions and even our abilities.
2. A positive attitude helps you get over challenges because challenges seem to be less significant.
It’s not that positive people don’t have challenges to overcome, it’s just that challenges have less of an effect on their life and their outlook than they do for negative people. If you have a negative attitude, the smallest setback can feel like Mount Everest. If, on the other hand, you have a positive attitude, even major setbacks feel do-able.
3. A positive attitude helps you see opportunities rather than limitations.
Opportunities, recognizing them and seizing them, can make the difference between tremendous success and living an ordinary life. When you have a positive attitude, you view the world as a welcoming and friendly place and you expect, recognize and grab opportunities as they come to you. If you’re negative then it’s easy to view the world as your enemy and everything as a problem.
4. A positive attitude attracts people to you.
Do you like being around negative people? I don’t. They drain my energy! A positive outlook makes others want to be around you and brings opportunities, customers and friends to you. You’re able to surround yourself with other positive people and success comes more easily.
Having a can-do attitude gives you the extra edge to dream big and accomplish your goals. When you believe you can accomplish something, you’re able to make it happen. You’re excited to sit down and plan how you’re going to achieve your goals. You’re determined and focused on getting where you want to go and you’re able to celebrate and share your success with others.
How To Change Your Thoughts
Although we’re not all born with rose-colored glasses, the good news is, this is something you can learn. You can learn to be positive, to use positive language and to look on the bright side.
First, you’ll want to practice recognizing your thoughts, both positive and negative. Once you can learn to recognize or be conscious of your thoughts, then you can begin to eliminate or change the negative thoughts into positive ones.
The important thing is, do not judge yourself. Notice that sometimes you choose more positive thoughts and actions. And sometimes, you choose more negative thoughts and actions. That’s perfectly okay. Just ask yourself, “what is there to learn in this space?” By approaching everything with curiosity rather than criticism, you’ll find that you feel lighter even when the situation would ordinarily feel stressful or heavy.
Don’t give up when you find this process difficult, it is and it takes time and practice. However the effort is well worth it.
Try On A New Perspective
If you have a situation that’s upsetting you right now, look for any positives, benefits or opportunities by asking yourself:
- Is there another point of view I can take?
- Did he/she actually mean something else, rather than the interpretation I have in my mind?
- What can I learn from this?
- Is there anything funny about this situation?
- How would my partner, best friend, child or someone I respect handle this? (Or, ask them in-person!)
With my client for example, instead of looking at her current position as a source of “stress” (ie. I’ll never be able to change careers), I encouraged her to look for the opportunity.
She realized her job search was opening up doors for her by exposing her to careers in the environmental sector that she hadn’t even been aware of. She was making valuable new contacts that may be helpful in the future. Trying to change careers had forced her to upgrade some skills, making her more attractive as a candidate as well as raising her salary expectations.
She also changed her perspective about losing to the other candidate as: “To be selected as second choice in such a competitive market indicates the high quality of my experience and expertise.”
In our coaching, we took the original information and looked at it from other perspectives in order to explore what is possible.
It’s all in how you look at things. Trying on new perspectives can be a very powerful skill in stress management. We all do this on occasion, but learning to do it more consistently and with intention can help you manage frustration and disappointment.
Try it and you’ll see that when you’re able to see the world in a more positive light, everything changes.
Image from Crestock Stock Photo
Elena is founder of a technology PR agency that works with startups to billion-dollar companies. She is passionate about helping marketers and small business owners with practical publicity strategies.
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