Invenio: Coaching and Mentoring March 2016 - Page 6

There are times when one comes to write an article where the words just naturally flow and pages fill with wondrous insights and amazing revelations. On other occasions the author may simply stare at the screen and simple hope that inspiration leaps from somewhere like some sort of purposeful Ninja with a ground-breaking exposé. I truthfully confess to the latter; this would not normally be a topic that I would relish writing about. Still, one has to face challenges in order to grow. I do hope the Ninja fairy is with me as I proceed.

Positivity can be defined as the tendency to view life and experiences with a positive outlook. ‘As one door closes another one opens up’; ‘There is always light at the end of the tunnel’; and of course the classic ‘I'll go home. And I'll think of some way to get him back. After all... tomorrow is another day’ (Gone with the Wind in case you were wondering). These are all the statements that can convince us that everything will turn out rosy (look there’s another one – just like busses, they keep on coming). But what does it really mean? Can you be positive all the time? What if someone has switched the light off at the end of the tunnel?

Now, before you start to believe that I am going to reduce the concept of positivity to tatters, let me reassure you that this is not my intention. What I do want to do is raise a sample of some adjoining philosophies that I believe are important, based upon my own thoughts, feelings, opinions and experiences. These, one could say, stem from the expression ‘grounded in reality’. I believe in reality testing.

Within Emotional Intelligence (EI) there is a scale entitled Balanced Outlook that measures how well a person balances optimism and realism. In an ideal world you will be balanced between these two points suggesting that you can be optimistic but you are going to check your hopes against reality. This [Life] position would be I’m OK You’re OK. This balance safeguards us so that we are not overly pessimistic and failure orientated resulting in things going wrong and disappointments. It also protects us from being driven by our desires, becoming unrealistically optimistic and thus being prevented from dealing effectively with the world as it is.

Should you find yourself either side of the fence rather than sitting on it, there are a number of resources, tools and techniques to help restore balance.

Something else that can be linked to positivity is the Locus of Control. This refers to the extent to which individuals believe they can control events affecting them. Some people believe that they can control their life primarily by their own actions (internal), whereas others believe that their decisions and life are controlled by environmental factors which they cannot influence (external).

In theory, having a strong internal locus of control is ideal as long as you consider how your actions affect others. This means having some external Locus of Control is not a bad thing either. Should you wish to measure your own Locus of Control, there are a number of questionnaires found via a Google search. My invitation is that you discuss your results with someone as part of your reality testing.

If you are interested in Mindfulness, then you may want to have a look at ‘The Happiness Trap’ by Russ Harris. In this book the author begins by exploring a number of myths;

Happiness is the natural state for all human beings

If you’re not happy you’re defective

To create a better life, we must get rid of negative feelings

You should be able to control what you think and feel

Following a plethora of insight, Russ concludes with the observation that no matter what the problematic situation is that you encounter in life, there are only two sensible courses of action;

1.Accept it

2.Take effective action to improve it

Viktore Frankl, the founder of Logotherapy, states that ‘everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way’. He emphasises that man is ultimately self-determining; we have the ability to decide what our existence will be and what we will become in the next moment. We have the power to choose!

Logotherapy does not look at the past or unconscious instincts or desires. Rather it focuses on the individual’s future and their conscious decisions and actions. It tries to make the individual fully aware of their own responsibleness, leaving them the option for what, to what, or to whom they understand themselves to be responsible.

The more I have thought about this topic, the more connections I can make (thank you Ninja fairy). I would invite you to do the same. For example, what is the connection between resilience, the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, and positivity? What situations can we create to elicit the frequent experience of pleasant emotions, another definition of positivity?

When we look at positivity, I encourage you to open yourself up to the possibilities and connections that abound. Positivity is not a panacea, nor is any methodology (in my humble opinion). When you look at your life experiences, learn from them; even the worst of times give us something. Ask yourself how you will use what you know, what you have felt, what you have done. Then decide what you are going to do and [positively] choose to do it.

‘If you keep on saying things are going to be bad, you have a good chance of being a prophet’ – Isaac Bashevis Singer

‘We have to learn to be our own best friend because we fall too easily into the trap of being our own worst enemies’ – Roderick Thorp

As always, if you would like any information on the topics raised, please let me know.

By the way, there is also a ‘Track Your Happiness’ app, part of a scientific research project that investigates what makes life worth living. With this you can track your happiness and find out what factors — for you personally — are associated with greater happiness.

Then you can (re) read The Happiness Trap and see what journey that takes you on.

Until next time.


David Monro-Jones AMC ASM

IIC&M Managing Director