How to Thrive When Everything Feels Terrible, Harvard Business Review, October 30 2020, Christine Porath and Mike Porath
Keeping Your Glass Half Full
We’re surrounded by negativity everywhere we turn. The news we read, social media we peruse, and conversations we have and overhear. We absorb stress from our family, friends, and coworkers. And, it’s taking a toll.
The Mighty, a community platform that provides health information and brings people together around specific health issues, has surveyed more than 70,000 readers and community members since March around their awareness, perceptions, and experience with the coronavirus crisis. In September, respondents reported their top three emotions were frustration, worry, and anger. The number of respondents choosing anger as one of their top emotions has more than doubled since March — rising from 20% then to 45% in September.
Through the WI Lens
What this article goes on to explain is how positive thinking – described here as ‘thriving’ – can counter the effects that come from the negativity outlined above, from reduced memory to diminished performance. Based on studying people in a series of organisations in different industries, one of the authors has found that people who attain this state are more resilient, experience less burnout, and are more confident in their ability to take control of a situation. The tactics recommended to ‘thrive’ range from avoiding negative thoughts, and not voicing them, to choosing carefully who you spend time with, being less judgmental, practising gratitude and managing your energy. This is one of many pieces currently extolling the benefits of positivity and is composed of largely sound advice (though people who are facing dire circumstances may struggle to dismiss negative feelings so easily). That can’t be said of all approaches to positive thinking. Social media interest in ‘manifesting’ – the practice of thinking aspirational thoughts with the purpose of making them real – is apparently soaring. In some ways it IS a positive strategy but caution must also ensue. At its worst, for example when people believe they can stave off illness simply by thinking themselves well, is frankly dangerous. One NYU psychology professor feels that while positive thinking can have beneficial effects in the moment, including a sense of optimism, it can set you up for failure unless you focus equally on the obstacles in your way. Positivity must not be used as a way to dismiss those with mental health issues, nor should it replace compassion for those in real difficulties. In the absence of those factors, it’s a good starting point to dealing with our current situation.
What this article goes on to explain is how positive thinking – described here as ‘thriving’ – can counter the effects that come from the negativity outlined above, from reduced memory to diminished performance. Based on studying people in a series of organisations in different industries, one of the authors has found that people who attain this state are more resilient, experience less burnout, and are more confident in their ability to take control of a situation
“Behind the jargon what this is really about is how we address the challenge of biodiversity under threat, move away from fossil materials like plastic and concrete, and use nature in a sustainable way, all of which could be summed up by “living in harmony with nature”.”
“In the new ‘consensual contract’ between employer and worker, what’s required is a commitment from the employer to safeguard the wellbeing of their people, and a commitment in return from employees to take personal responsibility for their performance of their job.”
“Could loneliness not only be damaging our mental and physical health but also be making the world a more aggressive, angry place? And if so, what are the implications for a cohesive society and democracy?”
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“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
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