Relax, this is not an article about COVID-19 antigen tests. Besides, that’s something you’d only want if you’re desperate to avoid a person or situation. Let’s talk about generating positive experiences in the place where you spend the majority of your waking hours interacting with others—work.
Work fuels your self-worth through the belonging, contribution, and fulfillment you experience. However, the turmoil of the past few years has caused widespread discontent and withdrawal from community-building norms, leaving workers depleted and searching for a way out. What if you could greet the new year by putting misery at work in the rearview mirror? Follow this roadmap for reclaiming the happy, fulfilling work-life you used to know.
Visualize what you want.
The pandemic created a hard reset button. Waiting for the office and your life to return to what once was is futile. The other side of that same coin has endless possibilities, so seize them. Grab a journal and start writing your answer to the following prompt every week: Imagine yourself standing in the future at an event celebrating you, then describe fully the who, what, when, where, how, and why. You are the architect, designing the life you desire, so draw upon your past, and then dream bigger! Remember the words of Les Brown, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
Reset your mindset.
Your mind is a powerhouse. By simply expecting something to happen, you subconsciously align your behaviors to make it true. [Example: You believe someone isn’t going to like you, so you look for indicators of personal slights and respond with your own jabs resulting in mutual dislike.] Your mind is also your protector, concentrating on perceived threats, be they threats to your body or ego. It will trap you in an endless loop focusing on the negative if unchecked. Therefore, it is vital to carry out an intentional practice of verbally acknowledging the good things happening around you. Speaking creates a dual benefit. It slows down your mind so that it processes the pleasant thing more fully and gives recognition and reinforcement to your co-workers. Think of each practice as slightly turning the tuning dial of a radio. Each action strengthens the signal, focusing the attention of all involved on favorable experiences.
Adopt positive practices.
As you start noticing more of the good things happening in your workplace, your feelings will improve, influencing your natural desire to engage in positive behaviors. Lean into it. Deliberately propagate positive interactions throughout your workday and watch the oppressive cloud of depression and resentment disappear. Advocate with respect and concern for the whole, calling attention to the changes needed to strengthen the team culture and performance. Most importantly, lead by example. When others experience your positivity, the good feelings keep going and transform their cycle of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors for the better.
Challenge your inner critic.
Everyone has a voice inside their head that constantly judges and criticizes. At times, your inner critic helpfully prompts you to consider all the consequences before you act. And then there are the times she is a bully spreading doubt, fear, and jealousy. Imposter syndrome is a classic example of your inner critic running amok. The result is self-imposed limitations. When that voice in your head says things that restrain your level of play, challenge it with “what if” questions—what if I’m enough, what if people listen, what if others take action, what if this works? Then, gently thank your inner critic for alerting you to the risks, and inform her that you’ve chosen to accept the risks and go forward.
Reboot your default.
A common default behavior that keeps you stuck in a negative cycle is giving yourself over to emotional reactions, a.k.a. drama. Hear me clearly; this isn’t a directive to deny or avoid your emotions. Expressing your feelings is natural and healthy, nor should you stop talking to others when you are upset. Sitting alone with negative thoughts can increase your stress and despair. The behaviors to replace include: meditating and obsessing over your anger and hurt and sharing it to pull others into justifying and defending your position.
Your biological programming causes preoccupation with negative experiences to take over if you allow it. Given that this naturally happens, you can expect it, acknowledge it, and reframe your automatic reaction into a thoughtful response. The process is similar to the advice for handling your inner critic above:
- Name what happened and the feelings you have.
- Admit your right to have those feelings, then tell yourself that this experience doesn’t define you or get the right to overshadow your day.
- Identify an action within your control that moves toward the resolution you seek to the situation, and take it.
Asking coworkers to choose sides destroys teamwork, camaraderie, and the work environment. This shift is one of the most impactful changes you can make.
Focus on yourself.
Often, we are willing to do more for others than for ourselves. We are more generous with our time, praise, and kindness. It is time to break this cycle and prioritize yourself. The most important thing you can do to Show Up Positive in 2023 is to show up for yourself. This is your invitation to look inward and let your needs, hopes, and desires be your guiding light. Don’t worry about what others are doing. Reject all temptations to make this work about fixing the behaviors of others. When you generate positive moments with others, you become a magnificent beacon that draws others and inspires replication. Positive change lives within you. Set it free.