March 23, 2009, 11:33 AM — Get off the complain train and hop on the energy bus. Here are 15 ways to turn negative energy into positive solutions.
Implement the “No Complaining Rule” at work. The rule is simple. You are not allowed to complain unless you also offer one or two possible solutions. The key is to utilize complaining as a catalyst for positive change. Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a great example of the “No Complaining Rule” in action. Hospital leadership was getting close to laying off a lot of employees. Projected revenue was far below projected costs. CEO Paul Levy confronted the problem at an “all employee” meeting saying he didn’t want to have to lay off anyone. He asked the hospital employees for their ideas and solutions.
According to an article in The Boston Globe , “The consensus is that the workers don’t want anyone to get laid off and are willing to give up pay and benefits to make sure no one does. A nurse said her floor voted unanimously to forgo a 3 percent raise. A guy in finance who got laid off from his last job at a hospital in Rhode Island suggested working one less day a week. Another nurse said she was willing to give up some vacation and sick time. A respiratory therapist suggested eliminating bonuses.”
Embrace the positive success formula: E + P = O. We can’t control the events (E) in our lives. We can’t control the economic conditions. We can’t control the job market. We can’t control the actions of others. But we can control our positive energy and our positive reactions (P) to these events and challenges, and in turn, this will determine the outcome (O).
I’m not saying it will be easy. You will certainly be tested on your journey. These are challenging times. You may lose your job. You may not sell your house as fast as you’d like. You may have to start a new business or venture. You may have setbacks. But if you apply the Positive Success Formula to your life, I guarantee you will have a big say and influence in the outcome. Instead of letting the world create you, you will have a significant role in creating your world.
Be aware of the external environment, but don’t let it consume you. No one is suggesting that you bury your head in the sand. You need to know what’s going on in the world so you can make smart decisions for your life — or, if you’re a business leader, for your company. But once you learn the facts, turn off the TV or put down the trade magazine or close out the website. And then let it go.
There’s a fine line between scanning the news and absorbing what you need to know and immersing yourself in it. When you feel your gut start to clench or find yourself breathing shallowly, stop reading or listening. If you get drawn into a fear-fueled conversation at work, break away. Know when to say when.
Neutralize the Energy Vampires in your life … Post a sign in your office that reads “No Energy Vampires Allowed.”
Gandhi said, “I will not allow anyone to walk through my mind with their dirty feet,” and neither should you. This sign will signal to others that you are staying positive, and you expect people to interact with you in a positive way.
…Or better yet, overpower them with your positive energy. Most Energy Vampires aren’t malicious. They’re just frightened and trapped in negativity cycles of their own. The good news is that positivity is contagious. You can infuse the naysayers around you with your own positive energy. This is especially important inside organizations where negativity has a foothold and rumors are flying fast and furious. Your positive energy must be greater than anyone’s negativity.
Where there is an information void, negativity will fill it. Leaders must remember to communicate, communicate, communicate. Keep sharing the vision. Keep talking about the fundamentals. Keep focusing on solutions. Even if you’re not a leader, you can counter your coworkers’ negativity by refusing to participate in negative conversations and by keeping your own energy level high.
Surround yourself with a Positivity Posse. Build a team of friends, family, and coworkers who support you, encourage you, and uplift you. Tell them of your goals and ask for their support. Ask how you can support them in their lives and careers. Team members help each other. There is an exchange of positive energy. Once you have your team in place, consistently infuse your players with positive energy and watch your success and happiness soar.
Think like a golfer. When golfers play a round of golf, they don’t focus on all the bad shots they had. They always focus on the one great shot. That’s what gets them addicted to the game of golf. They want to recreate that shot, so they play again and again. It’s the same with life.
Instead of focusing on all the things that go wrong each day, focus on the one success–the one great meeting, conversation, or sale–and let that inspire you to create more success tomorrow. Start a success journal and write down your success of the day. When you start looking for success, you will find more of it.
Look at the opportunity, not the challenge. History shows us that a lot of people and a lot of companies make a lot of money during recessions. The key is to find the opportunity. Where is the market heading? What do people want and need? What will they want in the future? Now is a great time to build a positive team with great talent. Now is the time to gain market share while so many give up. Now is the time to be indispensable to your company and demonstrate how valuable you are. And if you don’t have a job, perhaps now is the time to find your entrepreneurial wings.
Behind every innovation and solution is a story about someone who said there has to be a better way. I bet Henry Ford was walking behind a horse when he had the idea for his automobile!
Practice the art of “zoom focusing.” To “zoom focus” is to tune out the negative voices, focus in on your choices, and start getting things done. Nothing matters more than the actions you take each day to grow yourself, your team, and your business. Your job every day is to stay positive and take steps toward your big picture vision. If you’re a business leader, “zoom focus” by marketing your company, taking care of your clients, and building loyal relationships.
Ask yourself this question each morning: What are the three most important things I need to do today that will help me create the success I desire?” Then each day take action on those three things.
View your life as an inspirational tale, not a horror movie. The stories we tell ourselves and the roles we play determine the quality and direction of our lives. I regularly work with realtors (an industry that, admittedly, has a tough row to hoe these days). The best ones are able to overcome adversity by telling themselves a more positive story than the rest. Instead of playing the role of the victim, they see themselves as fighters and overcomers.
Those who are able to thrive during tough times have what’s called a locus of control. While they can’t control the market conditions, through their positive attitude, faith, and actions they believe they have an influence on the outcome of their story… and as a result, they do.
Feed the positive dog. I like the fable about the spiritual seeker who travels to the village to speak to the wise man. He says to the wise man, “I feel like there are two dogs inside me. One dog is positive, loving, kind, and enthusiastic, and then I have this mean-spirited, angry, jealous, and negative dog, and they fight all the time. I don’t know who is going to win.” The wise man thinks for a moment and responds, “I know who is going to win. The one you feed the most.”
There are plenty of ways to feed the positive dog. You can listen to your favorite music, read uplifting books, pray or meditate, or just spend time with positive people. It’s about making the choice to feed yourself with positive energy rather than negativity. The actions are simple. You just need to make them a habit and integrate them into your daily life.
Replace “have to” with “get to.” They are two simple words that can change your mind-set, perspective, and approach to work and life. So often we complain and say things like, “I have to go to this meeting.” “I have to meet with this client.” “I have to take care of this customer.” In reality, it’s not about what we have to do. It’s about what we get to do. When we change “have to” to “get to,” we change a complaining voice to an appreciative heart and realize that each day we wake up we get another opportunity to make today better than yesterday and tomorrow better than today.
Life is a gift, not an obligation. Research shows that when we practice gratitude, we get a measurable boost in happiness that energizes us and enhances our health and longevity. It’s also physiologically impossible to be stressed and thankful at the same time.
Institute your own personal “No Complaining Week”. The goal here is to become aware of how negative your thoughts and actions can be. The idea is to eliminate mindless complaining and negative thoughts as much as possible by replacing them with positive thoughts and positive habits. Here, excerpted from The No Complaining Rule is a quick, day-by-day overview:
Day 1: Monitor Your Thoughts and Words. You’ll be amazed at the thoughts that pop into your head.
Day 2: Make a Gratitude List. Write a list of the things you are thankful for. When you find yourself wanting to complain, focus on what you are grateful for instead.
Day 3: Take a Thank-You Walk. While you’re walking, think of all the things you are grateful for. Carry this sense of gratitude with you throughout the day.
Day 4: Focus on the Good Stuff. Focus on what is right in your life. Praise others instead of criticizing them. Focus on what you get to do rather than what you have to do.
Day 5: Start a Success Journal. Write down all the great interactions and accomplishments you have had today.
Day 6: Let Go. Make a list of the things you would like to complain about. Identify the things that you have the power to change, and identify those things that are beyond your control. For the former, identify possible solutions and a possible action plan. Write the word surrender next to the items on your list that are beyond your control.
Day 7: Breathe. Spend 10 minutes in silence. Focus on your breathing while praying or meditating and transform stress into positive energy. Throughout the day, anytime you find yourself feeling stressed or wanting to complain, stop for 10 seconds and breathe. Count your breaths and count your blessings.
Don’t quit at Mile 20. At what mile do you suppose most runners quit a marathon? You might assume the answer is Mile 26. After all, that’s when runners should be the most physically drained and exhausted. But you’d be wrong. Besides the first mile, the 26th is when the least amount of people quit. Why? Because they see the end in sight and keep striving for it. Most runners quit at Mile 20, when they feel they have come so far and yet have so far to go–when they lose sight of the vision of their destination.
The lesson is to keep your vision alive.
Where there is no vision, people perish. So do companies. In tough economic times, there will be weeks or even months when you feel like you’re hitting the 20th mile. You must maintain your vision and focus on it. Keep your vision alive and it will keep you alive. Don’t give up. Keep striving towards the vision planted in your mind and heart.
Trust in God, not the media (or other naysayers). You can listen to the media, a.k.a. “chicken little,” and believe that success is impossible. Or you can change your belief and know that with God and an optimistic attitude all things are possible. Instead of focusing on what they say you can’t do, focus on what you can do.
Instead of looking down at the paper, look up to the heavens. And instead of listening to the fear mongers, walk outside, close your eyes, smell the fresh air, take a few deep breaths, and discover the real peace you seek. Every day, stay positive, do your best to succeed, and have faith in God and a brighter and better future. I believe this is the antidote to fear, and it is the true kind of trust that you and I and the economy need right now.