Building a positive mindset in times of uncertainty and chaos, is critical to your ability to not only survive, but thrive. Ever have one of those days when everything was going well, and then one negative moment sends you spiraling? Have you laid awake at night dwelling on all the criticisms you received instead of the compliments? Heck, even turn on the news, and all the bad stuff makes headlines while good news is practically just a footnote.
There’s a reason for all of this. Psychologically, our brains tend to have what’s called a “negative bias,” where negative events have a greater impact on us than positive ones. We replay them over and over in our minds, analyzing and focusing on them until we’re mired in negativity.
If we don’t take steps to counteract our negativity bias, it can take a real toll on our mental health and wellbeing, as well as our ability to perform our best. Happiness and achievement are tightly intertwined, so we need to find a way to turn down the negative noise and amplify positivity in order to thrive.
Bottom line: Your mindset is the dividing line between thriving and merely surviving. It’s the difference between being stuck and being resilient. The good news is, your mindset is also one thing that’s always within your Span of Control. And while it would be great to just decide to be more positive and BOOM, it happens, unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. Building a positive mindset that will overcome our inherent negative bias takes time and effort, but it’s well worth it to support greater resilience that will empower you to thrive.
How is it possible to move beyond our penchant for negativity to support a more positive outlook? How do we fight for our joy during adversity?
Here are five ways to train your brain to focus on the good and build a more positive, resilient mindset:
1. Realize what’s within your Span of Control.
Spending your precious time and energy on things you simply cannot control is a great way to become stressed out and unhappy, real fast. Instead, learn to focus only on the things you have direct control over (even if it’s just your attitude!) in order to remain calm, focused and more positive in any situation.
2. Focus on what really matters.
Competing priorities lead to overwhelm and burnout, so write down your core values and purpose so you can prioritize the things that matter most to you. Is it family? Your career? Personal development? Integrity? Honor? Success? Set them in your sight and stay focused on them, every day!
3. Constantly learn from your experiences.
The next time you experience a negative situation or outcome, don’t ignore the problem and move on — learn from it to discover solutions and get better. A good tool for this, whether on an individual basis or even as a team, is debriefing. Look for the root cause of a problem, brainstorm solutions and find value in the experience.
4. Be aware of negativity, and then choose to move past it.
If an insult can stick with you all day and turn your temper from bad to worse, learn to acknowledge the negativity and take control of your attitude. Strive to see the positive in a situation, or at least choose to react in a more positive way. Somebody cut you off in traffic? Instead of snapping, what if you acknowledged the bad feeling, forgave them and simply moved on with your day?
5. Set realistic expectations.
Staying rooted in reality is crucial for building a healthy mindset that can help you remain resilient, even in the toughest of times. While it’s great to be optimistic about what’s in your Span of Control, it’s important to be aware of the things you cannot control and adjust your expectations accordingly. This will help you focus your efforts on where they can make the greatest impact and avoid unnecessary disappointment.
Training your brain to develop a positive mindset isn’t about being an unrealistic optimist — it’s about acknowledging difficult situations and using the tools within your power to manage your attitude and reactions. Because one of the greatest predictors of long-term success is how we react to life’s challenges. Will you allow yourself to get stuck in negativity, or remain resilient in the face of adversity? It all depends on your mindset.