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How Talented Women Thrive — Positive Framing

I was so excited to learn the distinction between positive framing and positive thinking. You see the frames people use to view the world and process experiences can and do make a critical difference to their professional outcomes.

Some studies suggest that those who look at life through the glass half-full as opposed to half-empty see the world more realistically. This frame of mind can be crucial to making good business decisions. Especially for women who have a tendency to suffer more depression than their male counterparts. Optimists, studies show, are not afraid to frame the world as it really is because they are confident they can handle whatever challenges and move their teams to action towards a positive outcome. Pessimists on the other hand, are more likely to feel helpless and get stuck in downward spirals that lead to energy depletion.

According to psychologist, Martin Seligman an early proponent of positive psychology, optimists are better able to deal with the news of cancer. Confident they can handle the prognosis, they begin immediately to gather facts and dive into treatments where as pessimists become paralyzed with fear. Seligman also discovered optimism can be learned, an important fact underlying positive framing.

So how are positive framing and positive thinking different? Positive thinking tries to replace adversity with positive beliefs and thoughts. Not that this is bad, but positive framing goes further. Positive framing accepts the facts as is and then counters them with action. Going into denial, or talking yourself into viewing what is as something different is a temporary solution at best.

When Andrea Jung, the CEO of Avon, in 2005 found her company in a temporary decline that she couldn't explain; she realized she was the one who had created the strategies and led the team in the direction for this downward trend. What did she do? She "fired herself" on a Friday and showed up on Monday as the "new" turnaround specialist with a different focus, a different plan and a glass half-full attitude.

Even if you're a pessimist by nature, you can choose to see the world and situations as optimists do. The key is self-awareness. If a deal goes bad, limit your thoughts to that deal, it doesn't mean all deals are bad or will go bad. If the speech you just gave was not received as you had hoped, it doesn't mean you've lost respect or the next won't be better. As Mark Twain said, most of the things he worried about never came to pass. What has your worry ever accomplished except to make you unproductive, unhappy and grouchy? Recently my son lost his job and of course I worried (and worried) then he called to say he found work and had been working a week (a week that I was still worrying).

It helps to talk with your friends or colleagues depending on the situation. Figure out what went wrong, how it can be corrected in the future and get support. Try not to take things too personally, just vow to learn from it and move on. These discussions should take place quickly, so you can take action quickly and gain your confidence again. The action should be something that restores your energy and faith in yourself. Go out with friends, remember things that have gone well, go for a run or take your children to the zoo. The sun WILL come up tomorrow....tomorrow.....tomorrow. If you go around humming this song, you will definitely have a happy attitude!

Helpful reading:

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt

Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin E.P. Seligman

Adapted from www.McKinsryQuarterly.com article 9-08

Are you feeling challenged by today's events? Need a booster and direction? Take a look at my new book,Faith Lessons, about how we can tap into our faith for strength. Available at www.movingon.net


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