Archive for December, 2009

Go for It!

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

William James said it succinctly over a hundred years ago:  motivation follows action.

How can you marshal your energies when you are overwhelmed with negative news, overworked, in transition or underemployed?  According to Shawn Achor, the answer may be in the pursuit of positive psychology research and tools.

I was fortunate to take an all day One Day U course with Dr. Achor last weekend and will share just a few of his ideas with you.  Try them and you may find it takes less energy for you to accomplish the career-related challenges and tasks you find yourself avoiding or procrastinating.

First, get thinking.  Shawn shared the concept of “emotional hijacking”, which is when you find yourself caught up in emotionality, negativity, fear or avoidance, based on the fear/flight response. He suggests that you move your brain waves from your emotional center to your intellectual center by creating a counterfactual internal dialogue.  The key is to put voice to your emotional reaction and to then use language to process your experience differently.

Try this:  today as you fight the traffic, avoid the crowds, go into a busy store or restaurant, note what is making you stressed, negative and unhappy.  Write down the words you say inside your head about the negative experiences on the left side of a piece of paper.  Note what you say made this experience unpleasant.  Then, on the right side, write down an opposite way of interpreting the events.  This exercise will neutralize your irritation.  In effect, you are moving your reaction from the emotional part of your brain to the cognitive part.

Now, apply this exercise to one work-related experience.  Feeling helpless and rejected because no one is returning your calls?  What are you saying inside your head?  What might you say that is positive, uplifting and motivating?

Second, get acting.  It is not just what you are feeling and thinking, it is how you are behaving that counts.  Studies of people that overcome adversity, manage difficult transitions and are resilient and productive show that they have three basic characteristics:

  1. A belief that their behavior matters
  2. Strong social support systems
  3. Positive stress management habits

The irony is that when in a personal or career crisis, these three qualities suffer. And, it takes more energy to avoid a constructive and productive action than it does to just do it.

The good news is: it is within your control to re-instill positive experiences in your life.  Of course, you cannot control external forces like the economy, difficult co-workers, truncated career advancement options.  But, within the constraints of reality, you can manage your thoughts and actions to create a more positive situation around you.

Here is where the third element comes in:  the phenomena of “mirroring.”  You will notice that when you are positive, others reflect your mood and actions.  The resulting feedback loop spreads—or at least neutralizes negativity.

This, being the holiday season, is a good time to experiment.  You can overcome your inertia using one of these emotional hijacking techniques:

Action Steps:

  • Start each day by writing down three things about which you are grateful.
  • Do one random act of kindness
  • Call a friend or relative and get together
  • Have that “difficult” conversation that you have been delaying
  • Clean up your desk
  • Do one thing on your task list you have been avoiding.

For more ideas, go to Aspirant

Enjoy the holidays!