Positive engagement and optimism

“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive

results” Willie Nelson


Unless you are very lucky, you are going to experience a lot of frustration as you go through your working career. How you react to these frustrations is really important.
If you happen to be by nature a positive, optimistic person, then you will have only a little difficulty in putting these frustrations behind you. However if you are like most of us and let things get you down then you may have more issues with the transition to work.
So let’s talk about being positive, and dealing with work issues.
As we mentioned before, work is more than ever defining who you are and becoming a large part of your identity. So when things go wrong at work, it may seem only natural to take it personally, and not

professionally. The problem occurs when work impacts on you through ways you cannot control. The obvious example is if you are sacked or made redundant from your work.


Say the company that you work for has been bought out and the new owners have decided that your office/ store/ factory is going to close. Unless you are an incredibly optimistic person, you will see redundancy as a concern. If you are optimistic you will see it as an opportunity. Worse still, if you are not optimistic and your efforts to find alternative employment do not succeed, you are likely to give up, whereas an optimistic person will keep going in the belief that something will turn up.

Optimism supports an attitude where people see opportunities and do not give up hope easily, and persevere long after others would have given up.
So it’s important to develop a positive and optimistic view of yourself and your work.
OK so you are only a new starter and don’t know much about anything, but you need to talk positively to yourself and learn from bad situation without getting resentful. Let your inner voice be positive.

Get into the habit of saying to yourself (out loud if you wish)
“I’ve got a job, and I’m going to give it my best shot”
“One day I’ll have my boss’s job”
“I can do anything once I put my mind to it”
“Everybody has to start somewhere, and I’m starting at the bottom but I won’t be here forever”

“My job is important, I am adding value to this business”

Optimism can also be infectious. If you are lucky enough to work with optimistic co-workers, chances are that you will take your lead from them, and become positive in your outlook on work.


Likewise pessimism can be a virus.
As a new starter you should avoid co-workers who are down on the world. Co-workers who continually complain about their job, the boss, the pay, the conditions, etc. etc. They are to be found in every workplace. Most people have worked out that these workers are negative in their outlook, whatever their situation. As you come across these co-workers, be polite and tactful with them, but do not let them influence your positive outlook.
It is more tiring being a pessimist than an optimist. Pessimism saps your energy. You blame yourself for everything. “I am just no good” or “Nobody wants me” are pessimistic phrases.
Pessimists believe the cause of their misfortune lies within THEM rather than being due to external or extenuating circumstances. Pessimists also believe that misfortune is forever (“Things will NEVER get better”) or repetitive (“If I have failed once, it will happen again”) It is also global or pervasive,
“If misfortune befalls me in one part of my life, then it will happen to my whole life.”
It’s so much easier and less draining to be optimistic and positive. So keep talking to
yourself, and hang out with optimistic co-workers!


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Between pessimism and optimism is rumination. If you are optimistic in a mild way, you may often have feelings of fear and uncertainty about the future. This is quite normal, especially as you are a new starter and learning the ropes.

But in some cases this can lead to high levels of anxiety. This anxiety can lead to the debilitating activity of rumination – a term used to describe a negative internal dialogue that people have with themselves. (See above on having positive talks with yourself.)

Negative self-talk often creates a vicious cycle of worry and anxiety. The more you think about the terrible things that might happen, the more vivid they seem and the more cautious you become. This caution in the workplace can lead to poor performance, through indecision or just the general feeling of apathy that it can introduce into you and your co-workers.

Your very fear of the future event is magnified through rumination. So when the event actually takes place, you are more likely to be tentative and unsure of yourself. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and the imagined negative outcome becomes a reality.

Ultimately your worst fears, your preprogrammed outcomes of the event, will be played out in real life, if you ruminate, or over-think the situation. Sometimes negative self-talk becomes so bad that it occupies much of your waking time and may even prevent you from sleeping at night.

For many years researchers have continually shown the close connection between the mind and the body. Thus negative self-talk will cause the body to act in alignment and your actual behaviour will mirror your mind image. In other words, negative thoughts cause negative behaviour.
So as a new starter be mindful of yourself, keep talking positively, if appropriate seek out positive feedback from your boss. Seek out those optimistic people at work and listen to them.

Positive imaging

Positive talking to yourself will help you create a positive visual image.
One of the most effective ways to prevent rumination is to replace it with positive self-talk, together with image thinking or “image-ination”.

In a practical way, think about a future situation you would like to experience and then run that “movie” several times over so that it is programmed into your mind. The “movie” you create

should also have a sound track containing the words you would like to hear yourself saying. The trick is to become your own ”Steven Spielberg” and create the blockbuster

movie of all time, starring yourself!

The Brisbane Broncos used this type of process when they were a young team under Wayne Bennett. The story is that Wayne made Bronco players stick a poster of the team above their bed. The poster showed the Broncos as the league champions (which they were not – it was photoshopped). So as the players went to bed at night the last thing they saw before going to sleep was them lifting the trophy.
The idea was to develop a strong image that instilled a belief into the team, and it was incredibly successful.

As well as vision and sound, your internal movie must also create a feeling for you. You need to decide how you would like to be feeling during the future event you are creating. Do you want to feel relaxed, confident, powerful, happy, forceful etc.?

If you want to be confident and relaxed throughout the movie then you need to edit into your sound track a repetitive “feelings” track where your movie-self repeats over and over again, “I am relaxed. I am confident.”

Positive imagining has been recognised for many years under such names as mental practice, imaginary practice, covert rehearsal, symbolic rehearsal and introspective rehearsal.

Of course thinking does not produce success, you have to do the work, and practice, practice. But the effect of this type of imaging and talking to yourself is well known in the sports field, and it is just as effective in other areas such as your personal life.

Interestingly the tests on self-imaging show that it needs to be refreshed every 3 to 4 weeks as it starts to lose its effectiveness. Also a total duration of about 20-minutes positive imaging seems to be optimal. So short practice sessions are best.

Final word on optimism
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always

to try just one more time” Thomas A. Edison

Given optimism’s importance, it’s no surprise to find out that workers are measured for optimism. Yes, there are tests that will tell an experienced practitioner where you are on the optimism/rumination/ pessimism scale.

These tests tell your employer (and future employers) how you are likely to behave in certain situations. These results suggest the amount of effort people are likely to put into either seeing the opportunities or seeing the obstacles.

Optimistic people are more likely to focus on the opportunities but too high a level of optimism can cause potential problems to be ignored, leading to major catastrophes.

Lower levels of optimism are more likely to cause people to focus on the obstacles lying in their path, but if they are too pessimistic then they may never seize the opportunities.