Culture

10 Easy Ways to Infuse Optimism Into Your Culture and Life

Choose Optimism image by Aaron Davis with quote by Ray McLean

 

Part 2 of 2: Last week – Looking On The Bright Side: The Real Secret To Success

Generally, organizations and people find change arduous and overwhelming. So, I hope it’s encouraging to learn that there are many very small things you can do to increase optimism, as well as practices that you can encourage in your corporate culture that can make significant change natural and easy.

Allocate special time for these mini-practices and communicate clearly, but concisely, that the purpose is to increase optimism to enjoy the many benefits:

  • Improved problem solving
  • Enhanced motivation
  • Higher performance and productivity
  • Lower stress
  • Better mental and physical health
  • Longevity
  • Increased resilience
  • Better income

Perhaps at the beginning of each meeting, you could allocate 5 minutes, or you can send a friendly reminder each morning that promotes the benefit of a particular mini-practice. None of these practices take any more than 3 minutes. They work best when they are encouraged, not mandatory. Doing one ore many of these will benefit individuals as well as the organization as a whole.

I learned some of these mini-practices from Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, who I saw speak at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women in 2017 and I attended his online masterclass through MindValley. Others came from Dr. Mark Waldman’s book, NeuroWisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness, and Success. Others are the culmination of a lifetime of research and practice in personal and professional development, neuro-hacking, quantum physics, and mind-body research.

Each of these mini-practices has benefits that reach far beyond optimism. Experiment to find which of these practices are sustainable and have the most impact for you. Sustainability is key!

If you’ve tried one before and it didn’t work for you, you can either choose to try it in a new way, or move on to the next. It’s not all or nothing. Make modifications as you see fit!

  1. Meditation as a way to optimism

Before you roll your eyes and abandon reading the rest of this highly impactful post, remember that this is promoting mini-practices – things that take 3 minutes or less! I have spoken to so many people who have been discouraged by their experience trying to meditate. Listen, there are some very complex ways to meditate and there are some very simple ways to meditate. Here are the simplest ways I know:

  • Focus on your breath – the sensations of the air coming in and out. Set a timer. When your mind wanders, notice it without judgment and bring your focus back to your breath.
  • Focus on your muscles – from your head to your toes. Become present to each muscle and fiber and consciously instruct them to relax. I personally find this easier to maintain focus for 3 minutes. Actually, I can spend a good 5-8 minutes here and find it more helpful than a nap in restoring my peace of mind and focus.
  1. Visualization as a way to optimism

The key to visualization is using your imagination and acting as if what you want has already happened. We all used to do this as a kid a thousand times a day. When was the last time you allowed yourself to get into a fantasy where your life is exactly as you’d want it?

  • Imagine the most ideal outcome and let your senses in on the fun. Get into the details – What are you wearing? How does it feel against your skin? Who is with you? What are they wearing? Where are you? What is the weather? What do you smell? What all is possible for you in this magic moment? Who is happy for you or proud of you?
  • Spend 5 minutes per day imagining your best possible self. Optimism starts to increase from day 1 because it helps you shut down some of the chatter of negative self-talk that comes from your logical left brain and engages more of your creative right brain.
  1. Expansion as a way to optimism

Sometimes our growth happens so gradually that we hardly stop to reflect on just how much we’ve grown. If we’re only focusing on the gap ahead of where we are to where we want to be and don’t take time to see how we’ve grown, we take for granted our ability to grow and expand and underestimate what we’re capable of accomplishing.

  • Reflecting on growth is one way you can start to appreciate our own ability to expand and grow. This means looking back at a certain point in time, perhaps a year, or perhaps to the first three months on the job, and recognizing what skills or expertise did not exist in your repertoire. Perhaps there was an influential co-worker or mentor who helped you understand something or helped you gain a new perspective. Maybe you attended a conference where you learned a new practice or tactic. Start compiling a list and add a few at a time.
  • Another way to induce quantum expansion is to try something outside of you comfort zone. This can be, but doesn’t have to be, work-related. I recommend taking a look at the area of your life where you tend to feel the worst about where you are compared to where you want to be. This may be an area of your life you avoid for exactly that reason. For some people initiating a meeting with the CEO is an exercise in expansion. For others, attending an event full of strangers is a highly uncomfortable endeavor. Some need a little more thrill in their life, and may choose activities with a higher level of risk. These are intended to be mini-practices done first thing in the morning, but perhaps a lunch hour is delegated to hit the rock climbing or parkour gym.
  1. Kindness as a way to optimism

The more you practice helping other people without expectation or obligation of anything in return, the more you will expect this from others as well. Even when you experience people being selfish or unkind, you will be more resistant to adopting a pessimistic worldview, because you know that kindness is an individual choice, and if you choose it, others do, too.

  • Send a note of gratitude or praise. This doesn’t have to be a long note – a short paragraph will do. Even in a few short lines, however, be specific about the action or quality you are acknowledging and express how it made you feel or how it impacted you or others. Not only will this make you feel great, it will create positive ripples that continue well past the recipient.
  • Perform a random act of kindness. This doesn’t have to be extravagant. Maybe it means picking up someone’s favorite yogurt on the way into work and putting their name on a sticky note in the fridge where they’re sure to see it. You can choose to be anonymous, but there’s also nothing wrong in this exercise with choosing to be found out, either. In this case the note could read, “I noticed you like this, Jan. Enjoy! ~ Karen.” You could give the violinist in the subway a big tip, or let your waitress’s manager know that she’s doing a great job. It’s doing a little more than being polite, such as holding the door open. Politeness is also something that, when practiced, will increase your faith in people, but this is mini-exercise expects you to go a bit further out of your way, but not much further – 3 minutes.
  1. Gratitude as a way to optimism

If you can take notice and feel appreciation for good things, regardless of how small, and spend time in their significance, you will see how each good thing is really a tiny miracle, and if tiny miracles are possible, larger miracles are also possible.

  • Start and/or end your day thinking of 3 things you are grateful to have occurred over the past 24 hours, regardless of how simple they might be, such as someone letting you merge.
  • Take one thing that happened and “rampage” about it mentally, verbally or in written word, which is really letting yourself get wrapped up in all the good that something is, following one great thought to the next. For example, “I love that I got to spend time with my family yesterday, because when we spend time together playing games we get to know each other on a deeper level and create memories that we’ll cherish for many years to come, which is really what life is all about, and I love the time that I spend creating memories and feeling closer to my family, and knowing that we have each other; it makes me feel safe, secure, and loved….”

How to execute these mini-practices:

As I said above, you can encourage these mini-practices in small ways, such as taking 5 minutes at the beginning of each meeting for one or several, but you will enjoy exponential benefits if you can garner wider participation without obligating anyone while still supporting consistency.

I recommend that you do a 30-day challenge for yourself, and then promote a 30-day challenge for your workforce. It might look like this: Every work day for 30 days you will send an e-mail first thing in the morning that will encourage people to take 3 minutes or less to try a mini-practice, selecting a new mini-practice each day. You may opt to choose a focus for each week, or you can delegate a day of the week for each mini-practice category, e.g. Mondays are for meditation, Tuesdays are for Visualization, Wednesdays are for Expansion, Thursdays are for Kindness, and Fridays are for Gratitude. Have them also take 2 minutes at some point in the day to reflect on whether the mini-practice made a difference and send this to you. After this 30-day challenge for you is over, reward yourself for completing in a way that is meaningful for you.

Then, initiate a 30-day challenge for your workforce to pick one or several of the mini-practices that was most impactful for them and start their day with a mini-practice every work day for 30 days, allowing them 15 minutes after work begins to do this, though people can still opt to be done in less than 3 minutes, plus 2 minutes of reflection sent via e-mail. A standardized form for feedback will help you convert these reflections into usable data that may be very revealing! You may opt to reward all who participate with paid time off, or some other tangible reward, or choose one participant to receive a large reward.

At the end of the 30 days, aggregate and assess the most significant reflections and share the findings with everyone, whether they participated or not. If you find that these mini-practices made a significant impact in a way that is meaningful to your organization, consider instituting a permanent, consistent time allocation for them.

You can also engage Epic Careering to perform a morale and engagement assessment and conduct a more comprehensive participation program, including a workshop. By investing even a half-day immersing your workforce in learning the life skill of optimism:

  • You will send a strong message that their happiness is paramount to everyone’s success
  • They will understand at a deep level why it’s such a critical area of focus
  • You will get more buy-in to the mini-practices at a more meaningful level
  • Everyone will enjoy the exponentially increased benefits

Share with us your optimism initiatives past, present or future.

Beatles “Getting Better” (2015 stereo remix)

This is “Beatles “Getting Better” (2015 stereo remix)” by Lance Hall on Vimeo, the home for high quality videos and the people who love them.

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a career management firm specializing in the income-optimizing power of social media and personal branding, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify new trends in hiring and personal marketing. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Consultant and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business and recently instructed for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy at Cabrini College, where her students won the national competition and were named America’s Top Young Entrepreneurs.

 

Looking On The Bright Side: The Real Secret To Success

Don’t Forget About The Silver Lining by JC Winkler on Flickr

[Part 1 of 2 – Next week: How to Infuse Optimism Into Your Culture and Your Life]

Optimism is a highly underestimated quality in workforce culture.

Optimism drives our global and national economy. It also drives our personal economy. Optimism increases the likelihood of success.

100 studies agree that optimism contributes to:

  • Improved problem solving
  • Enhanced motivation
  • Higher performance and productivity
  • Lower stress
  • Better mental and physical health
  • Longevity
  • Increased resilience
  • Better income

Lack of personal optimism leads to depression, illness, and addiction.

A lack of optimism, also known as pessimism, skepticism, or cynicism, is justified considering the widespread disparity between the world we want and the one we live in, which extends beyond our professional outlook and pervades all facets of our lives – health, financial, political, environmental, etc. However, it just doesn’t serve us to be more skeptical than optimistic, although there is critical place for realism, which you might think is the opposite of optimism, but it’s not.

The opposite of realism is idealism, and there is a distinction between idealism and optimism, but there is an application for both of them.

You can reverse engineer a better solution by assuming an ideal outcome is possible. Consider if Roger Bannister assumed he could not break the 4-minute mile just like all runners before him. Then consider how many after him aimed to run even faster, with well over a dozen succeeding.

Contingency planning, disaster recovery, cybersecurity professionals and other people in your workforce who assess and analyze risks, as well as those veterans in your workforce who have experienced prior failures can prevent future failures and losses. Every organization needs these people. However, our human nervous system was not intended to stay on high alert for prolonged periods of time. What an organization can do to protect the wellbeing of these professionals it to  train these employees on healthful stress management and to make sure give them ample time off. There also need to be protocols in place to make sure that, even in a culture of optimism, their expertise is tapped and considered during strategic planning and tactical execution. I will get more specific next week.

In an organization, a lack of optimism fosters an environment of distrust, which will inevitably leads to:

  • Interpersonal conflicts
  • Unmet obligations
  • Unproductive suspicions and drama
  • Micro-management
  • Lower morale
  • More instances of mild to serious illness
  • Increased turnover

Careful of optimism bias. If you are oriented toward optimism, you will naturally create a bias that this orientation is better than any others. If you choose only to hire those who are optimistic, however, you have a talent chasm, not just a talent gap.

You’ll find it much easier to hire if your talent strategy is more based on candidate coachability, values, and skills (in that order) and then imbue your culture with training and practices that promote increasing optimism among your workforce. [We will talk more about this in the next post.]

All the places where optimism is critical for proper engagement and retention of your talent:

  • Optimism that there is a future career path in the company
  • Optimism that your company’s services/products deliver what is promised to clients/customers.
  • Optimism that vendors will deliver
  • Optimism that performance will be recognized and rewarded
  • Optimism that the organization’s leaders are ethical, moral and making good decisions

I’m not an optimism elitist, and I’m not always optimistic. However, based on the science, which I didn’t cite in my usual style because 100 studies were too much to cite, but I can point you to Dr. Mark Waldman’s NeuroWisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness, and Success for a comprehensive compilation of such citations, I make optimism a practice and aim to be more and more optimistic and less and less pessimistic. I have been accused of being idealistic before, and it was assumed when I was a younger professional that I would grow out of it, as if becoming more experienced and wise means being more pessimistic. Again, based on science, this just doesn’t serve me.

It is because of Dr. Waldman’s book and the science he has promoted that I know that there are multiple mini-practices that you can promote in your organization and in your life that will strengthen neural pathways for optimism. I will share a few of them next week.   Until then, keep hoping!

The Killers – Mr. Brightside

Music video by The Killers performing Mr. Brightside. (C) 2004 The Island Def Jam Music Group

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a career management firm specializing in the income-optimizing power of social media and personal branding, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify new trends in hiring and personal marketing. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Consultant and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business and recently instructed for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy at Cabrini College, where her students won the national competition and were named America’s Top Young Entrepreneurs.