Let Positive Triggers Turn on Your Best Self ©
SEPTEMBER 21, 2007David Pollay, HappyNews ColumnistI was having a bad day. Yes, it’s true. I know I research, write and speak about Positive Psychology, but I was having a bad day. I admit it. I was sitting in my office by myself, and I wasn’t feeling good.Here’s my first question: Where do we look when we’re feeling bad? Most of us look down. And that’s what I was doing in my office; I was looking down at my shoes.And then I started laughing! I realized that Eliana and Ariela, my 3 and 2 year old girls, had put stickers all over my shoes before I left the house. Just thinking about my little girls slipping stickers on my shoes made me laugh. But then I laughed even harder when I thought, “Where had I gone that morning with stickers stuck all over my dress shoes?!”At that moment I got it. The stickers my little girls had put on my shoes were a positive trigger for me.So here’s my second question: Where do we look when we’re feeling good? We look up! And that’s what I did in my office; I looked up and my day was reset. I had a second chance to make my day a good and productive one.The research on the importance of experiencing positive emotion is pouring in. Barbara Fredrickson is best known for her research on how positive emotions help us “broaden” our “thinking and action repertoires.” In a chapter she wrote in the book, Positive Organizational Scholarship, Frederickson pointed to earlier research by Alice Isen and her colleagues that demonstrated that “induced positive emotions produce patterns of thought that are notably unusual, creative, integrative, open to information, and efficient.” Frederickson also wrote that “…positive emotions transform individuals into more resilient, socially integrated, and capable versions of themselves.”Here’s my takeaway. If we were being chased by a bear, we should feel plenty of negative emotion! As my grandmother used to say, “Run like the dickens!” Otherwise, positive emotions help us think better, they help us problem-solve, and they help us build good relationships with others. People prefer to be around curious and creative people more than they do people who are always running away from bears! When I’m experiencing positive emotion, I know I do better work, I’m a better leader, I’m a better husband, and I’m a much better Dad to two little girls who like stickers.The final question is, “What are your positive triggers?” What makes you smile? What makes you laugh? What puts you in a creative mood? What triggers your passion, excitement, and hope? For some of us it’s looking at pictures of our loved ones. Some of us listen to a favorite song. Others go for a quick walk, or do a little dance. Some read a short, funny story. Others remind themselves of their goals. Now, take a moment to think about the things that trigger your positive emotion. Think of the best entertainers, athletes, and teams. They all perform particular rituals to get them focused on their best selves; they all do things that trigger their positive emotion.Consider it this way. When you enter a dark room, what do you do? You reach for the light switch. You flip it, and just like that you have light.
So what’s your light switch? What positive triggers will help you look up when you’re feeling down? Need some stickers?
David J. Pollay is an expert in the cutting-edge field of Positive Psychology. He holds a Master’s Degree in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, and an Economics Degree from Yale University. A former leader at Yahoo!, MasterCard, Global Payments, and AIESEC, he now runs The Momentum Project. Email David your thoughts and stories at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 561.265.1165.