This is a question I have been asked many times and a conversation piece that fascinates me.
I often discuss the theme of having a positive mindset and how we can train the mind to start seeing things more positively, even in negative circumstances. This is based on understanding how we can learn to manage our thoughts and create new patterns of behaviour. Perhaps a more fitting description would be to refer to a growth mindset.
Is this the same as being positive or happy all the time? Personally, I would say no. I would also say that trying to sell the idea of being positive or happy all the time is somewhat misguided and potentially really quite damaging.
Rainbows and Unicorns
How many of you know someone who is ‘always positive’ in that annoying ‘the sun is shining and life is all rainbows and unicorns’ kinda way? Someone who always adds a positive spin to anything you say and just won’t seem to let you feel anything less than amazing. We all know someone like that right?
Do you think they genuinely feel that positive and happy all the time? Of course they don’t! Do they believe they have to be portraying that person to everyone? Maybe. Much like the ‘life is soooo awesome and perfect’ social media profiles, it’s an exaggeration and a snapshot of what people believe they ‘should’ do or say. Let’s be honest, over the last few years we have been bombarded by ‘toxic positivity’ which has left a lot of people feeling like utter failures and that they are not good enough.
What is toxic positivity?
Toxic Positivity is the idea that we should all simply ‘be positive’ all the time and not feel anything ‘negative’ such as sadness, anger and fear. Or, we shouldn’t allow people to not be ok and open up about when they are struggling, but instead dismiss what they are saying by replying with platitudes of ‘just think positive’ or ‘it could be worse’ etc etc. What this does is teaches people that if they feel anything less than positive then they have somehow failed and they are not good enough. This can really impact someone’s self-esteem and mental health. It also gives the message that they should keep those ‘negative’ thoughts and feelings to themselves. Believe me when I say, ignoring, blocking or denying feelings causes far more harm than acknowledging them.
Life can be really hard
The reality is – life sucks sometimes and can be really hard. We will all experience pain, loss, grief, anger, fear and frustration along with a multitude of other emotions because this is what makes us so wonderfully human, and that’s ok! It’s ok to not always be ok, it’s ok to be vulnerable. It’s in these times where we are able to learn so much more about ourselves and to begin to love ourselves fully. Learning to treat ourselves with love and compassion at all times – through the good, the bad and the ugly is what also enables us to foster a growth mindset and foster a more positive outlook. This is not the same as being positive or happy ALL the time which just isn’t possible.
What’s the difference?
Let me explain – training our minds to see the positive in every situation is having a or growth mindset. Being grateful for even the smallest thing is having a growth mindset. Taking learnings and understandings from difficult or challenging situations is having a growth mindset. Accepting that life isn’t always easy and doesn’t always go our way is having a growth mindset. Being kind and compassionate to ourselves and others, even in times of darkness, is having a growth mindset.
Learning to foster a growth or positive mindset is not about denying other, less comfortable feelings, it is quite the opposite. It is learning to accept and acknowledge all of the struggle and pain too. It is giving yourself permission to not be happy all the time and to know that things aren’t always wonderful and that’s ok. It’s about having a belief deep down that even in your darkest times, things can change and you have the capability to affect that.
Is it easy to maintain a positive or growth mindset all the time? No. As with all of these things, it’s about choice and it requires effort, but it’s absolutely worth it.
If you want to understand how to promote a growth mindset in yourself your teams to create a more resilient workforce, book your free, no obligation consultation today.