Is a glass-half-full way of thinking hardwired in us?

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Have you ever wondered if you are a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty type of person? Do you find positivity in things, or do you find yourself regularly worrying about what may go wrong? Read about the benefits of a positive attitude, examples of fake positivity, and how your mindset can determine outcomes.

Your mind is powerful, you see. What you fear may, in fact, come true. The good news is that what you desire can become your reality if you know how to master your mind.  

I read an article a couple of years ago about research findings of biological evidence to prove there are negative and positive people worldwide. It sounded interesting.  At least I found it interesting because I have always believed that I have a choice, even in following a positive or a negative mindset. Learn how the glass-half-full way of thinking can help you. 

A study was performed at Michigan State University, involving 71 women. It is not an extensive research study, I admit. However, it did inspire me to think about how positive mindset can help us unleash our potential. And as you know, I am big fan of discovering, expressing, and unleashing the talent and resources we hid in ourselves.

Some survey participants struggled to put a positive spin on difficult situations that they had to observe. The study participants looked at various photos and provided their opinion about the potential outcome of a situation they saw in the picture. 

found the results interesting and like to think that I have a choice. Even though some people might find it more difficult to view certain situations in a favorable light, adopting a positive attitude is possible.  

Let me give you an example.  

No matter if you are an employee or a business owner, during the COVID19 pandemic, most of us experienced a certain level of uncertainty due to the decreased level of business activity. The restrictions brought on by the virus outbreak negatively affected many employers and businesses.  

On the other hand, this slower pace of business may provide the perfect opportunity to develop ourselves and think through if we are in the right place at a good time. We may use it to determine which areas we want to develop and what we can do to prepare for being hit even harder or rapidly adapt to the accelerating phase.  
Having reviewed our skills and knowledge, we can determine what skills we need to acquire to be able to keep up with the changing demand.  

It’s not all merry

Of course, I am not saying we should convince ourselves that whatever happens in our lives is positive and beneficial to us. Especially if we get into a situation when its tough to see the end of the tunnel, others suggesting a positive meaning to an otherwise negative or neutral event or circumstance can, in fact, result in a controversial interpretation.  

For example, during the lockdown, suggesting that Saturday night is going to be super-fun may make us realize what we may miss out on… 

But I give you another example. COVID19 forced us to think differently about business, and many companies found themselves accommodating for remote work. That resulted in decisions such as reducing homeoffice employees (people who work from home) salaries. We all know that changes to compensation negatively impact motivation and work efficiency. Telling employees can work from home will not cheer them up when you reduce their pay, as working from home comes with its own challenges. Challenges not many were or are ready to tackle just yet.  

Getting back to the positive thinking topic. I believe that being a glass-half-full person is, in fact, rewarding. Let me share with you a couple of reasons why the glass-half-full way of thinking is helpful. 

#1: Expecting a positive outcome and good things to come will lead you to take action 

Taking action or a series of steps results in progress, and more often than not, in positive outcomes unless your positivity is somewhat anaivety or irresponsible behavior.  

Let me share Lizzys story. Lizzy had a performance conversation with her boss about the potential to participate in an overseas project within a year as a developmental opportunity. Lizzy was quite excited and quickly deep-dived into learning the French language. Lizzy was excited about the opportunity so much that she wanted to prove to herself and the line manager she did her best to prepare for the upcoming project. 

Would Lizzy had been less optimistic and trusting, she could have just laid back and waited to find out whether the opportunity was to come or not. Because she started to learn the language and build connections with her French colleagues, it was easier for her to be part of the project team. By the time the project team member selection came, she was supported not only by her line manager but also by the French project manager. 

#2: Expecting negative results or bad things to come your way will slow you down 

Or, even worse will keep you from taking action, and you will deny yourself of the steps that might have helped you prevent or reduce the adverse outcome you feared. This is what you may also call a self-fulfilling prophecy.  

I give you an example from my personal circle of friends and acquaintances. Years ago, a talented architect was thinking about starting his own construction company and envisaged to starts small, mainly with refurbishments. Even though he had the knowledge, the skills, the experience, and connections, he didn’t believe he could be successful in his own business and sell such services. No one could convince him otherwise. 

That thought, that belief, basically paralyzed him and held him back from starting the business overall. Until this day, he hasn’t started this business and still works as an architect for a company.  

#3: With a positive mindset, you find more opportunities! 

Does it mean there are more opportunities for the optimists? Not at all. I often say here a pessimist sees a problem, I find an opportunity.  

Have you seen anyone solving a problem by complaining about it? I havent. Just to link back to the previous example, finding a business partner with strengths in selling the construction services would have been an excellent kick-start for this architect on his entrepreneur journey.  

#4: Expecting positive things to happen is also helpful in closing the gap between where you are now and where you want to be 

Even if you struggle to see the way forward or where your desired destination is, with positive mindset, you take the courage to step outside your comfort zone and do something you found challenging before. It is undeniably an excellent way to stretch yourself because it builds self-confidence in a specific field and improves your overall self-esteem.  

Problem-solving is a creative process, so a positive attitude is essential 

How would you even start solving a problem if you do not believe you can end up with a solution.  

Yes, problem-solving requires us to think about the problem itself. It also includes an analysis of the problem, which then leads to solution options through multiple steps. 

Some would argue that willingness to solve a particular problem also depends on the level of dissatisfaction and discomfort with the situation we are trying to solve, and I somewhat agree with that opinion.  

Lets look at a situation that happens quite often in corporate companies. These organizations have structured but sometimes more rigid policies and processes than small businesses. This includes the need to use systems that align with well laid-out internal processes.  
Such systems are built without giving much flexibility to users, which benefits the business and can make the users’ lives somewhat miserable. As long as the user can work with a system without extensive additional work, they will not take active steps to find workarounds. Once their dissatisfaction reaches a certain level, they will, for sure, find a way to avoid using the system.  

Many companies use SAP or ORACLE as their enterprise resource planning system. Both systems require discipline and following the internal rules of how to operate these solutions. Once users are requested to provide ad hoc reports, they might not find a way to satisfy the demand using these solutions. Until the additional work needed to meet the ad hoc demands does not reach an intolerable amount, the users will not complain about the solution itself.  

In another example, thinking about business owners who use email marketing on a daily basis, an email marketing tool can support their needs up to a level. As long as they can perform most of the impactful tasks with the tool, they will not think about changing or replacing it.  

Reframing a situation is a double-edged sword, depending on what mindset you adopt 

Beyond the willingness, reframing the situation and viewing it from a different angle is also important from a problem-solving point of view.  

Lets see a way to get to a solution for our architect, whose example I shared before. Remember? He didnt believe he could sell his services, and therefore he hasnt even started his business. That said, we can hypothetically create a trigger thought, which is I dont believe I can successfully sell my services.’ Reframing requires a shift from the passive zone 

We more extensively talk about the characteristics of the passive zone in the Kickstarter Program™, which is a 4-week online course aimed at female professionals who work in corporate environments to help them accelerate their career progression. If you are interested to learn more about the program, just visit our website (unleashr-mentoring.com) or send us an email at questions@unleashr.co.uk. 

We designed, made available, and affordable The Kickstarter Program to most professionals working at even the lower levels of their organization because I believe the knowledge that moves you forward in most cases is not that far. Still, direction and guidance are crucial in finding the most impactful ways to move a career forward without exhausting yourself in the process. The Kickstarter Program™ is focused on those aspects of repeated success that enable you to accelerate your career growth. 

Reframing in action

So, getting back to reframing and the passive zone. The first step of reframing is to create an action to define a first step, however small it is, to move you out of the passive state that you may be in.  
Appropriate questions for the architect in the example, therefore, could be  

  • What should I do to be able to sell my services?  
  • What do I need to do to sell my services if I have the expertise, skills, and connections to provide satisfying results for my client?. 
  • What am I missing? 

In other words, what is the first step that I can take to make myself or my business to be able to sell?  

If you change the way you look at your situation and the challenges in it, not only your view will change but your ability to solve the problem as well. Your mind will suddenly shed light on a rich array of opportunities to discover inner resources and the ways to grow.  

Cover photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

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Ariana Mara

Ariana Mara

Ariana founded unleashr with the aim to help people not only understand but benefit from the changes in their professional environment.

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At unleashr we work together every day because we would like to help you solve three key problems you may struggle with in your professional life:

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