There are countless interviews with business leaders claiming to know the secret to success. Many of them cite optimism as the key to their achievements. While it’s impossible to say whether every successful entrepreneur is an optimist, could the power of positive thinking be the key to success?
The benefits of positive thinking
The idea behind the power of positive thinking is that when your mind is in a positive place, good things come into your life. Being optimistic opens you up to achieving success. Some people believe positive thinkers aren’t realists. But even if each day doesn’t go perfectly, optimists focus on the parts that did go well. With the power of positive thinking, you will attract others like you, and then you all will encourage one another to reach your business goals.
Here are some of the ways positive thinking can help you achieve your business goals:
Positive thinking aids problem-solving.
Research by Barbara Fredrickson, a psychology professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of Positivity (Harmony, 2009), found that those who think positively have a greater capacity to embrace new information. This improves a person’s ability to “connect the dots,” thus helping them tackle problems.
A main element of problem-solving is the ability to approach situations from a mindful and clear-headed perspective. If you’re too stressed out, it might prove difficult to solve problems in the workplace, especially creative dilemmas.
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A study led by Rohit Rastogi, an associate professor of computer science and engineering at ABES Engineering College, found that positive thinkers coped with stress better, which enabled them to work more effectively. Even a small effort, like watching a movie that emphasized positive thinking, increased the ability for creative problem-solving for a high-school-aged group, according to the study, which was published on ResearchGate.
Positive thinkers have more energy.
People tend to respond to situations in a predictable way — a personality trait called dispositional affect. Scientists concluded that those of a positive dispositional affect have more energy and enthusiasm than those who have more negative affectivity. That said, low levels of negative affectivity aren’t necessarily bad, as these people may be more calm and relaxed.
Positivity makes people more resilient.
Few entrepreneurs make it big with their first idea or business venture. There are often many failures and mistakes behind a prosperous business.
However, studies have shown that being positive in the face of adversity can help you become more resilient. For example, a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology explains that “being able to move on despite negative stressors does not demonstrate luck on the part of those successful individuals but demonstrates a concept known as resilience.”
Resilience has its own rewards, too, with research showing that individuals with the trait “have optimistic, zestful and energetic approaches to life, are curious and open to new experiences, and are characterized by high positive emotionality.”
There is evidence that cognitive style affects strategic decision-making in organizations, according to research in the International Management and Entrepreneurial Journal.
Positive thinking improves decision-making.
It is somewhat logical that if you’re in a negative frame of mind, you’re less likely to make decisions that have a positive impact. This is highlighted in the book Understanding the Entrepreneurial Mind (Springer Nature, 2009), which states that “negative thinking from entrepreneurs in a negative mood could lead to decisions which are more likely to be poor for their venture.”
Decision-making is closely tied to problem-solving, so it involves many of the same factors, like being resilient so you can focus on what you can control in order to fix a problem.
Positive emotions can affect entrepreneurship, too. According to a study published in the Journal of Business Venturing, emotions such as passion have an impact on entrepreneurship, including aiding creativity and innovation.
However, positive thinking is nothing without positive action.
It’s not enough to just think positively. While positive thinking is a great start, it’s just thoughts. Positive action involves taking those thoughts and making needed changes.
Positive action theory (PAT) is the idea that we feel better about ourselves when we do positive actions instead of just relying on positive thinking. There are many applications for PAT, and business is a big one. A problem arises, a positive thought on how to deal with the problem happens, and then positive action is taken to solve the problem. Once the problem is solved, there is a feeling of euphoria that carries through to the next problem that arises.
“The concept of ‘I can, I will’ is immensely powerful,” said Ryan Knoll, owner of Tidy Casa. “The first steps are the most difficult ones. And taking these first steps is purely a mental battle: be it hitting the gym, studying for a course, achieving in the workplace, etc.” This strategy enforces the idea of turning a positive thought into a positive action.
Positive action theory was developed by Carol Gerber Allred in the late 1970s and has been revised several times due to new research and evaluations.
Tips for practicing positive thinking
Now that you know the benefits of positive thinking, it’s time to apply it in real life. Try these tips for practicing positive thinking:
Practice gratitude early in the day.
Start each day on a positive note by focusing on the good in your life. You may want to say a positive affirmation or take the time to consider the things you’re most looking forward to that day.
Watch what you say to yourself.
Stopping negative self-talk is another positive thinking strategy. Being your own worst critic is self-sabotaging. Turn any setbacks or failures into life lessons that you could use later on. Always keep your mind on the present and the future, and leave the past in the past.
“Simply being kind and engaging to those around you can really have a positive effect on your atmosphere at work, and can encourage others to do the same,” said Dan Gallagher, of Aegle Nutrition. “Similarly, engaging in positive self-talk can help you naturally embrace a more positive mindset over time.”
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Have a positive company culture.
“Businesses can create an environment that encourages positive thinking by promoting open communication and collaboration. When employees feel like they have a voice in the decision-making process, they are more likely to be engaged and invested in their work,” said Derek Capo, chief operating officer of Starquix.
Share the love.
“Give every member of your team a chance to shine in front of their co-workers,” said Monte Deere, CEO of Kizik. “By giving employees the stage to share something interesting to them, it inspires a more personal camaraderie among all. This kind of shared positivity contributes to a more supportive culture.”
For example, every month, Kizik hosts a “lunch and learn” where a different employee shares a passion of theirs or something they learned.
“Not only does everyone gain a new perspective, but [they] also get to know a member of their team in a new, positive way, leading to lower turnover,” Deere said.
Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.