To be the most productive in our jobs we need to enter that job with a positive mindset. Any negativity coming our way dampens that and brings down our mood which could lead to less productivity and stress. So, how do we get a positive mindset?
Having a certain mindset is all about your outlook on life. Are you a glass is half empty person or a glass is half full person? Do you wake up most mornings excited about your day or dreading it?
I got the idea to write this from a comment on another one of my posts. A portion of the post talked about staying away from negative influencers. The commenter mentioned how that is easier said than done, and upon reflection, I agree.
So how do we stay positive even when we know the negativity could be around us? It very well could be impossible to avoid. Below are my personal thoughts on this topic.
What is a Negative Mindset?
Before we get into positive mindsets lets look at negative mindsets and characteristics that might make up this type of person.
To describe this trait I am going to talk about a teacher I used to work with.
This teacher was a good person, and a veteran teacher (I was within my first 5 years of teaching). I liked her personally, and she was a lot of fun to hang out with outside of the school/work setting. We taught the same subject and our classrooms were right across the hall from each other.
Things she would do or say to make me think she had a negative mindset:
- She would usually start out a conversation complaining about something
- Would smile, but was usually accompanied by how she just wanted the day to end
- She loved to talk about things that she perceived were wrong, but never had any insight onto how to fix it
- While we got along she was not very helpful in terms of the profession (classroom management, lessons, etc). She tended to do her own thing.
- Loved to gossip about other coworkers
- Never pointed out anything that was going well, only things that were not going well
- Most everything she said to the students was a correction of some kind
As a teacher early in my career I looked up to her and started to unintentionally model my behavior after her. I could feel myself becoming angry, and waking up dreading the coming day. I did not even realize at first that this was happening, and it was greatly affecting my teaching career.
What is a Positive Mindset?
Later in my teaching career I got to work with someone else who was the exact opposite of the one from the above example. This teacher was an instructional coach that I worked closely with. Some examples of her traits were;
- She smiled all the time
- Was very encouraging to me, other teachers, and students
- When something was not going well she had ideas to help fix the situation
- Always complimented others
- When others were gossiping or being negative about administration she never joined in the conversation
This teacher also had the respect of everyone on the campus. In my time working with her I never heard anything bad said about her.
A positive mindset is an outlook on life. It’s looking for the good things instead of the bad things. It’s also able to look beyond the negative to try to find the positive.
Ways to Get a Positive Mindset
To me, it’s easy to be negative but it takes practice to be positive. Early in my career, I did have a negative mindset, but with practice and guidance, I was able to change my outlook on many things.
Below is a list of things I have done within the last several years in my career to help me personally grow and keep a positive mindset.
1. Redirecting the Conversation
This is something I should have done years ago with the negative teacher I worked with. Instead of engaging in the negative talk I should have tried to either change the topic or redirected the conversation to make it more positive.
A lot of times I find that these comments stem from frustrations on the job, or a lack of understanding of certain situations (they don’t have all the facts).
For example, most of the negativity I hear is directed toward administration and the perception of lack of discipline. I would walk into the teacher’s lounge and many times the conversation would be within this realm. Instead of engaging I would pick topics to try to switch it up. Depending on who is in the room I might ask about cool lessons they are doing or ask about their weekend plans. Anything really to try to switch it up, especially if there is a new teacher in the room. We need to protect and encourage new teachers the most to keep them in the profession. Once the negative influences take hold these teachers usually don’t last long. I know because it almost happened to me.
I’m always careful with redirecting though because you don’t want the other person to feel like you’re dismissing them and their frustrations.
2. Trick Your Brain
Our brains are very powerful tools. There has been research into cases where people can actually convince themselves that they are sick or have conditions. If we can do that then we should be able to convince ourselves to be happy, sad, angry, excited, etc.
The key is to focus on aspects of our life that is positive and happy.
- Instead of thinking “I have to go into work today” think, “I get to go into work today”
- Instead of thinking about the students or coworkers who stress you out, focus on the ones who make your day a little brighter.
You have to decide you’re going to have a great day. Focusing on the positive thoughts really does help me but it takes practice and active monitoring of what your thinking.
I played a game with a coworker one year when for every negative thing we said we had to do 1 burpee. I remember doing a lot of burpees within the first couple months of school, but it helped me monitor what I was saying out loud.
3. Words and Actions Matter
What you say and do make a huge difference to your own mindset and that of those around you. There are several easy ways to do this every day.
- Smile at people and give some sort of greeting.
- Give compliments. This is one I have had to work at the most. I am not a big compliment giver, but I know I great I feel when I get them so it is something I have been actively trying to do better. You can make or break a person’s day by what you say to them.
- Offer help. This could be huge for some people. It could be as simple as holding the door open for someone or offering to help cover a class during your conference.
How you act toward a person can also dictate that person’s mood. It can be a spiral effect that can have positive or negative consequences. If you come into work in a bad mood and snap at someone, that persons entire mood could change and then they might end up getting upset with someone else, and it could be a whole downward spiral.
In short, it takes practice to look at life in a more positive light. For some people, it comes naturally while for others it takes practice.
Having lived on both sides I can definitely say that I am more happy thinking positively than I ever was when I was negative. Once I found a way to switch over I also became more productive and happy in my job.