The Power of Positivity


A big beautiful smile greets you as you enter a local business. The employees are up beat and very customer-service oriented. They want to make sure that you have a good experience while shopping at their store. Good business? You bet! Chances are you’ll come back.

However, the reason for having a positive outlook on life is so much greater than just wanting to increase sales or win more games. As a coach, business leader, or just an ordinary person, being positive pays big dividends. The research is clear; optimism has a positive effect on your health, your work, and even your life.

Whether we recognize it or not, negative experiences have a greater impact on us than positive interactions. Researchers have found that negativity is more than twice as powerful as positivity, and in order to be in a positive state, you need at least three positive experiences for every negative interaction. But being too positive can also be detrimental. These same researchers estimate that a positive to negative ratio of 13:1 or greater indicates that you aren’t taking problems and issues as seriously as you should. In other words, at this level of positivity, you are just sticking your head in the sand.

Being positive and optimistic means attacking problems, and negative interactions, with a positive mindset. And the benefits that are derived from this positive mindset are powerful. Below are some of the findings on positivity as it relates to your health, your work, and your life.

Your Health – More and more research is showing that when you have a positive outlook on life, you reduce your stress level, improve your immune system, prevent chronic disease, and you are more likely to recover from disease. In fact, the Mayo Clinic continues by stating that health benefits from positive thinking may also include living a longer life, lowering rates of depression, reducing the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and having better coping skills during stressful times.

Your Work – In your work life, positive interactions are linked to improved performance, increased productivity, enhanced customer service and increased profits. This is huge when you are trying to improve the profits of the company or the success of your team. The research shows that in a positive environment, players and employees are inspired to work hard, they tend to care more about the quality of their work, and this in turn helps the team or business to become more successful.

Your Life – An abundance of research has shown that a positive and optimistic disposition can lead a person to more happiness in life. When you are happy, you tend to receive more social support, you are less stressed, you are less depressed, and you are more likely to have positive self-esteem. Conversely, negativity narrows your focus and can lead to feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, and depression.

How To Become More Positive – So the research is clear, a person who is positive has better health, is more successful in their career, and is happier in life. But how do you become a more positive person? Researchers hypothesize that about 50% of our disposition comes from genetics. Another 10% is determined by our circumstances and life events. This leaves approximately 40% of our disposition as being within our control. And science has shown that we can learn to be more positive and optimistic in life. The key is to change the way we think about things and how we interact with others.

Everyone has negative thoughts. Some people have them more often than others, but the key is how we react to these cognitions. When irrational negative thoughts creep into your consciousness, you need to first dispute these beliefs. Pessimists tend to ruminate about these issues and problems, thinking that these situations will negatively affect their lives. Conversely, optimists will dispute these thoughts and will believe that these issues are temporary. Optimists tend to reframe their thoughts in a positive manner, convincing themselves (positive self talk) that they have control over the outcome of the situation. Optimists are also very conscience about treating people with respect. They try to be nice to people and are grateful for the little things in life.

Yes it’s true that positivity can bring customers back to your business and can increase sales. It can also help you to win more games as a coach. But as a coach or business leader, you need to understand that positivity can benefit yourself and your people in so many ways. It’s more than just winning games. It’s about winning in life. As such, you have the power to do so much good in this world. Take the first step by creating a work environment that is positive and where employees and players can thrive and flourish. Positivity is powerful!

Howard Gauthier is an Associate Professor in the Sports Science Department at Idaho State University. His research interests include topics in positive leadership, success, and career development in sports. His books include Getting Hired in College Sports and Execute for Success. Look for his new book, The Positive Leader, which will be available in Fall 2015.

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