March 4, 2011
Think positive: staying upbeat a key to success when looking for work
The Associated Press
It’s pretty tough to stay positive if you’ve been out of work for a while — or if you have a job but your boss makes your life miserable.
But science has shown that it is possible to maintain an optimistic frame of mind even in these difficult situations, and that even the most negative people can “rewire” their brains to focus on happiness and positive thoughts more often.
Shawn Achor, founder and CEO of Good Think Inc. and a leading expert on human potential, says the key is that we must stop thinking that happiness can be achieved only after we’ve reached a goal such as a new job or a promotion. Instead, Achor says, research in psychology and neuroscience shows that happiness is what leads to success — not the other way around.
For example, if you’re hunting for a job and feel negative as time passes, then your thoughts become mired in those thoughts and you begin to drag through your days.
You see fewer possibilities as your brain underperforms in its negative state. And even if you do land a job interview, others can perceive your unhappiness and negativity, Achor says, and your chances for landing the job plunge.
If you work on having more positive thoughts, “then your brain becomes more resilient in the face of challenges and you see more possibilities,” Achor says, leading to more opportunities for success in finding a job.
Achor, author of “The Happiness Advantage,” emphasizes that this “positive psychology” does not say someone should be happy to be unemployed, but rather encourages those going through a difficult time to set aside bad thoughts and instead think about what actions are open to them.
If you’re unhappy at work or unemployed, here are some of the ways Achor says can help you feel better and have a more positive outlook:
Do something that makes you happy. Called a “happiness booster,” this can be anything from exercising to writing down three things a day that make you grateful. Achor says that one of the quickest ways to get your brain on a positive path is by sending a two-sentence e-mail expressing gratitude to another person.
“It stops your brain from being paralyzed by the challenges you have,” he says. “Your brain can’t do two things at once, so it can’t scan the world for the negative when you’re using it to express what you’re grateful for.”
Take control of the situation. “Positive psychology is about being a rational optimist. We don’t expect people to be Pollyannaish, but you can focus on concrete action that is within your control,” Achor says. An example for job seekers is to send out one résumé for a job where they feel success is a possibility rather than big batches of résumés for jobs they’re not confident about.
“If you keep goals small and manageable and very concrete, then the brain short-circuits that emotional hijacking that comes when you feel overwhelmed,” he says.
Change your viewpoint. If you hate your boss, for example, don’t compare your situation to a workplace with a good boss. Instead, compare it to someone who doesn’t have a job, Achor says.
“We’ve found in our studies of companies with bad bosses that while some of the employees were miserable, others found ways to be optimistic,” he says. “The difference is that the optimistic people found other things to be grateful for.”
Seek social interactions. If you have a terrible manager, find ways to invest more in your relationship with colleagues, Achor advises. “Social support is the single greatest predictor of our happiness and success during a time of challenge,” he says. “A social investment can be an antidote to a bad boss.”
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