Stop Focusing on What You Can’t Do

We like the negative.  Some of us even embrace it.  Many of us can remember the story of Chicken Little.  For those not familiar, Chicken Little had something fall from the sky, hitting him in the head.  He immediately concluded “The Sky Is Falling” and proceeded to warn everyone with a great deal of enthusiasm that this was happening.

In business, we tend to do this too.  A bad sales month means the business is failing, error and waste occurring as we provide product or service means we are so bad at what we do that the business will fail.  Negativity begets more negativity until we find ourselves afraid to make any decision or do much of anything else at work except clock in and clock out.  (Careful, the clock might be poorly wired and you could get electrocuted)

Now before you beat yourself up over your negativity, don’t.  You are normal, research has shown again and again that all of us are wired to be aware of negative circumstances and consequences.  It is how humans have survived for some 200,000 years.  Good parts of negativity do exist.  These make us aware of problems and circumstances we need solutions for.  The bad part is dwelling on them to the point of paralysis.

The real issue now at hand is, “How do we get rid of the bad parts of negativity without eliminating the good parts.  Let me star with this; One of the Worst Things You Can Do is Tell Yourself or Others to “Think Positively.”  This can actually make things worse.  So what do you do?

  • Help others to think about a problem or issue differently than as a problem.  Help them use different strategies in problem-solving.
  • Be aware of the impact of negative people and how they can cause problems for positive people.
  • Celebrate positive events and outcomes.  Enjoy the moment as long as possible.
  • Help others rein in negative thoughts by managing exaggeration or embellishment of the situation.
  • Don’t become obsessed with negative issues.  Instead, focus on solutions to them.
  • Take some small wins and celebrate those with your team.  Small wins move you forward in a positive way and develop into big wins.
  • Sometimes negativity is necessary, it is, after all, a form of honesty. Blend negative words with positive ones.  It may have been wrong but rarely is everything wrong.  Sometimes the simple fact that someone made a decision a positive.
  • Learn to say “Thank You.”  This simple phrase can reenergize someone and make them feel more appreciated.

Those few things can have a significant difference in not only how positive or negative or working environment is but on how well our businesses address the challenges that all businesses face.  There are many other things you can do that help develop the positive over the negative.  Some of those are:

  • Visualize a successful outcome
  • Stop dwelling on mistakes
  • Look at things as an opportunity
  • Analyze what went wrong without obsessing over it

Every effort you make to turn a negative into an opportunity to excel enhances both you and your business.  It stops you from getting mired in “the sky is falling” activities of fear and negativity and allows you to rise above the situation.

You may need a sounding board, a trusted confidant, mentor or coach to achieve this.  There is nothing wrong with asking for help.  In fact, asking someone for help is a positive step that avoids the negativity of a potentially out of control ego.  Engage with others to help you solve these negative events.  When engaging with others around the workplace, focus on problem-solving – joining in a group effort to constantly revisit that something went wrong.  Use the group experience as a positive problem solver.

Sometimes all you need is to recharge or re-energize yourself.  That could be nothing more than walking away from the negativity for a few moments or even a day or two.  The key to using this avoidance strategy is to come back and begin the problem-solving process.  Get beyond the “We can’t do it because it’s impossible or too hard” thinking and look at what you can do.  Like the old saying about how you eat an elephant, tackle the issue one step at a time.