The stop light says, “Go” at 71st and Sheridan. But before accelerating you look both ways for the driver who didn’t beat the yellow light. Defensive driving, we call it. It’s defined as “driving to save lives, time, and money, in spite of conditions around you and the actions of others.” The aim is to reduce the risks of accidents by “anticipating dangerous situations.”
Defensive driving is great for the road, but how much defensive living goes on? How many times do people enter the workplace, approach a conversation, merge for a team meeting defensive, scanning for the negative? On alert to protect self-interest while trying to control others?
The impact of positive
Research suggests that becoming positive in real time helps us, in fact, our brains work better. Regarding your future success, Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, reports only 25% of job success is predicted by I.Q. while 75% is attributed to your optimism levels. It means you have social support and an “ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat.”
High positivity releases dopamine and rewards you in two ways: happiness and adaptability. Dopamine turns your brain’s learning centers on, which helps you adapt to your world. Instead of focusing on the crash to avoid, you begin noticing the roads that bring adventure, opportunities, and delight.
Achor says, “…there are ways that you can train your brain to be able to become more positive. In just a two-minute span of time done for 21 days in a row, we can actually rewire your brain, allowing your brain to actually work more optimistically and more successfully.”
Resetting your scanner
What can you do to support your brain and experience this productivity boost? According to research, there are five activities that create positive change.
- Gratitude x3 — for 21 consecutive days, write down three new things you’re grateful; this encourages your brain to start looking for the positive first, not the negative. (Emmons & McCullough, 2003)
- Journal — help your brain by reliving one positive experience from the past 24 hours. (Slatcher & Pennebaker, 2006)
- Exercise — this teaches your brain that behavior matters. (Babyak et al., 2000)
- Meditation — helps your brain get over the “cultural ADHD” that comes from the illusion you can multi-task instead of focus on one task. (Dweck, 2007)
- Random Acts of Kindness — whether a positive email, text, handwritten note, or phone call, deliver today that message of praise or gratitude to someone in your world. (Lyubomirsky, 2005)
Creating Space for Reflection
You’re at 71st & Memorial this time. What’s your scanner set to detect, the positive or the negative in life? Are you looking for crashes or opportunities?
On a scale of 1 to 6 how optimistic are you?
Of the five habits that support retraining your brain for optimism, which are you doing and which are you willing to engage?
When will you make your gratitude list and journal? That’s right. What time will you schedule it?
When will you exercise? Where? With who? What’s that look like?
When will you create space to be still, to reflect on your Story?
How will you intentionally remember to do your random act of kindness?
Here’s to the road ahead filled with positivity, delight, and your future success,
PS: Watch Shawn Achor’s TEDxBloomington talk (12:20) The happy secret to better work here.
Photo credit: Sonny Abesamis via Flickr