Choice not chance determines your happiness
Miranda Kerr claims to read affirmations every morning because they make her feel “more centred and inspired”. One such affirmation is “I came here to be me” which Kerr describes in her self-help book Treasure Yourself as giving herself permission to be authentic, self-expressed and unafraid to present her true self to the world.
It’s easy to be cynical about the quest for people to better their attitudes, especially when they are supermodels who appear on the surface to be perfect beings already. Surely Kerr should have no fear expressing herself? And can reading these statements make any difference?
Self-help often gets a bad rap. As a society, we agree that it’s good to improve our intellectual minds through traditional education. However, many people draw the line here and are unwilling to accept there’s any work required on our emotional selves.
This month UK journalist Oliver Burkeman has been in Australia promoting his book which questions positive thinking. He says self-help is over-hyped and focusing on positive thinking puts too much pressure on people to be happy.
I’ve worked for more than 10 years as a management consultant with organisations who want to improve the ability of their leaders and employees. Most managers are promoted because of their technical skills.
However, as many organisations find, being good technically, doesn’t make you a great leader. Instead, it’s the largely unmeasurable skills of what you’re like emotionally that enables you to motivate and inspire others. I’ve seen first-hand the difference that positive and negative thinking has on performance.
For example, a sales person who uses positive affirmations such as ‘today will be a great day and I will get that big sale’ will be more motivated to make cold calls than someone who is expecting failure.
Positive thinking or reading affirmations can inspire or motivate people and make them feel good. So long as you’re not delusional, what’s wrong with looking on the bright side? It’s no guarantee that the immediate result will be any different, but the person who focuses on the positive is more likely to bounce back from adversity.
The optimistic sales person, for example, is more likely to pick the phone again after rejection.
Optimists see themselves as being able to influence their environment. So, they are resilient, which means they’re able to accept change. In fact, they’re often pioneers of change. Pessimists are in a constant state of helplessness. They tend to think of themselves as victims, unable to control the situations around them. They blame themselves for problems. They see negative events as permanent and insoluble.
Positive thinking is a difficult construct to measure scientifically, but research into optimism and health consistently shows that optimists live healthier lives and have lower incidence of disease. And in the workplace it’s pretty obvious that employees tend to prefer managers with positive attitudes. This translates to staff who are happier, do better work and stay around longer.
We can all choose whether to cultivate our positive or negative thoughts, and with every choice comes a consequence. How we react to situations and people throughout our day is very much influenced by our state of mind.
In normal, healthy people it’s usually choice, not chance, that determines your emotional responses to every day situations. Consider that next time some one cuts in front of you on the highway or tries to get ahead of you in a queue.
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