FAQ – Finding the Positive

Whether at work or at home there will always be things that don’t go our way. Sometimes we’ll just finish glossing a front door, and a gust of breeze will fling a few errant leaves onto it.
We won’t enjoy every book we pick up, every TV show we sit down to watch, every meal we eat, every pint of beer we look forward to. It can be irritating when things like that happen. On the other hand…

It can be amazing when a job goes just right! It’s a fist pump moment when a client pays within minutes of sending an invoice. It can be a total delight when a meal is delicious, a TV show engrosses you or makes you laugh. Life can be great.
But it’s not just a question of ‘good stuff and bad stuff’, we can still get a lot out of the less amazing bits of our work day and lives. The secret is to always look for the positives.

Where to begin?

So, is it just about having a ‘positive mental attitude?’ Does that even work? One thing’s for certain, it’s not just a case of flipping a switch and everything is rosy.
  It’s a process. It’s about making a new habit. It takes time. But it’s so worth it. It’s had a surprising effect on me and on people around me. 
  There are three parts of the process that I’ve found useful to work on. None of them are difficult, but like any new habit they take time to become almost automatic.

Taking a bird’s eye view

When stuff is ‘happening to us’, it’s very easy to take it personally, to get wound up, even to blow it out of proportion. But there’s a useful technique to get it back into proportion, and that’s taking a bird’s eye view of the situation. 
  The best way to do it, is actually imagine you’re floating above wherever you are, looking down. You see yourself, you see the situation. It helps to look at things objectively, as if you’re a third person.
  Say that you’re in a traffic jam, late for something, it’s easy to get annoyed or stressed. But it is what it is. Unless you have a James Bond car that transforms into a helicopter (if you do can I borrow it?) then there’s not much you can do to move faster.
  So take a look out the window, observe the trees, the people walking past, enjoy the radio show or playlist you’ve got on. Stop being the centre of the universe and get a wider perspective – it really helps.


That nicely brings us to the second trick, and that’s feeling grateful. When I’m stuck behind a tractor on a country road, I actively thank the agricultural worker driving it for growing the food that keeps us all alive. Doing that means that I really don’t mind getting stuck behind a tractor, it actually makes me smile. And you can do that with almost any situation. 
  If you get to work and yesterday’s filler hasn’t gone off because it’s on a cold wall, you could get annoyed, or you could look at the positives. You’ve got a heater in the van to help it go off quicker, you can work on the other walls or the woodwork. Always look for what can be done and be grateful for that. Which takes us to…


Every single thing that doesn’t go our way is a perfect opportunity to learn from it.
  Stuck in traffic? Learn to leave earlier, or find different routes, or just tell your client you’ll be there later and enjoy that time in your cosy vehicle, listening to a great podcast, song, or audio book.
  Filler hasn’t gone off? Next time, check with the client if it’s okay to put an extra heater in the room. Try different fillers. Learn to do filling on cold walls first, so it’s got more time to go off.
  People can get intense satisfaction from learning something, it’s one of the things that makes us so human. We feel like we’re winning at life, beating the odds. So having that attitude of constant learning makes us feel progressive and gratified.

Outside of work

We can apply these three simple techniques away from work too. Annoyed by one character in a TV show? Don’t fixate on them, focus on what you are enjoying and appreciating. Your Sunday roast is great except for the overcooked carrots? Don’t moan about them, focus on what is great and make carrot soup for Monday.
 One benefit of this is you’ll moan less and that’s good for the people around you too. Moaning takes energy away from people, but being positive gives out more energy. Be a radiator person, not a drain.

Broadening the positive

So ‘finding the positive’ isn’t just about switching your brain to some magical more positive mental attitude. It’s just about practising the simple acts of taking a bird’s eye view of situations, of being grateful for what is good at that moment, and of enjoying the process of learning.
  Turn those acts into habits and you’ll find yourself making more of virtually every situation you’re in. You’ll feel better about life, you’ll be more solution-oriented at work and you’ll have a most positive impact on the people around you.