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The work of people like Martin Seligman, one of the founders of positive psychology, recognizes the power of a positive approach to the way that you see the world. In the Adaptability Quotient, one of the abilities that you can develop and grow is the ability to have a mindset that is adaptable, a positive mindset.
In the scoring system of AQai, the global average score for Mindset is 68 out of 100. To me, that feels disappointingly low. As somebody who is an optimist by nature, I struggle to understand why it serves some people to fail to see the positive side of things. That doesn’t mean I forego my critical analysis of things, but it does mean that I do notice the positive side of things, find opportunities and expect good things to happen.
Within the AQ framework mindset is a cognitive ability that can be shaped by how one reflects on past events as well as a belief about positive outcomes. It equips individuals to move towards their goals and therefore adapt more successfully. They’re also more able to adjust to stressful life events and hence cope better with changes at work.
So how do you increase your mindset?
I think one of the most powerful ways of doing this is to have a robust approach to failure. Can you can acknowledge failure? Do you recognize the pain of failure? Can you look beyond failure and believe that as one door closes another one opens? Do you see failure as an opportunity to learn? Do you believe that only through failure can you find a different way to success? These are key ingredients to adopting a more positive mindset.
Practitioners of NLP have all sorts of techniques you can use to reinvent the past and indeed, a classic tool is to use the concept of peak performance to draw on the strengths of a previous success and use it to inform the possibility of future success.
But for me, there are other tools and techniques you can also use to improve your mindset.
One of the things to do is to ask yourself whether the kinds of thinking you’re doing are actually helping you or harming you. I love the concept of Autonomous Negative Thoughts that comes from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. You recognise thoughts that are negative, or unhelpful and then you can then substitute them for thoughts which are positive and helpful. If you look at ANTs or Autonomous Negative Thoughts on the Internet, you’ll see a whole slew of examples of negative thoughts that you can overcome. For me, this is a great starting point to reframe things into the positive.
The second thing is to look at things you can be grateful and thankful for and build a habit of identifying things every single day that you can be thankful for, whether it’s individuals, security, possibilities or just people in your life.
What’s the Worst that can Happen?
The final thing is to think about whether the worst thing that could happen, or the most feared scenario, is as bad as your emotions are telling you. If you are anxious or pessimistic about a situation, just ask yourself, ‘is it really as bad as I think it is?’ or, ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’. Too often I think we can turn an incident into a crisis. Rather than just seeing that, in the grand scheme of things, this too will pass.
Tuning in the Good Things
Why does mindset impact your ability to adapt in a rapidly changing world? Because, as you see things in a positive light, you will see more opportunities, you will notice more good things, and you will track those good things and, in the context of change, you’ll be more attuned to seeing what is out there that is good for you, good for your future and good for the team that you are a part of.
Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.