Very few people will probably disagree with the idea that developing and maintaining a positive mental attitude is helpful in sports, business and life in general.
Having a positive mental attitude is, of course, no guarantee of success when so many other factors such as skill, effort and perhaps even a little luck so often come into play in any successful endeavor. So let’s not get all rah-rah and proclaim a positive mental attitude the solution to all problems – but let’s not take the opposing viewpoint and declare it a superficial characteristic of shallow people.
Life is often about simply playing the cards you are dealt the best you can. And a positive mental attitude can help you not only play the cards you are dealt better, it can also help you get a better hand in the future. People love a good “recovery from adversity” story and will go out of their way to give future breaks to those who play a bad hand well.
My main point today is not about whether or not you should try your best to maintain a positive attitude; it’s about how you can do it when you don’t feel so positive. Most people can maintain a great attitude when things are going well. How do you pull it off when things aren’t going so well?
I became interested in this topic when I watched a TED video last week by Harvard Business School professor and researcher Amy Cuddy. Her talk is titled “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.” For those of you unfamiliar with TED, you can view her 21-minute talk on the www.ted.com website.
Here’s what she said that intrigued me the most. Cuddy talked about the often heard quote, “Fake it ’til you make it” with a bit of a twist. Her advice was to “Fake it ’til you become it.” I like that quote much better.
Most people understand that what is going on inside a person’s head – their mental attitude – is usually revealed by external factors we collectively refer to as body language. Cuddy’s research supports the fact that body language is essentially a two-way street. In other words, if you can somehow get your body to fake the body language of a person with a positive mental attitude, it will eventually help you develop genuine positive feelings.
For example, clenching a pen or pencil between your teeth activates the same facial muscles that are involved in producing a genuine smile. This, in turn triggers internal events that actually make you feel more positive. Keep it up and you are no longer faking it, you actually become more positive. And by the way, a positive mental attitude can be highly contagious and influence those in your circle of influence – including those who can help you be more successful.
Cuddy has other interesting body language strategies. Whenever you feel a bit down, why not put a pen between your teeth and watch Cuddy’s talk?
Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting and author of several books on improving productivity. Contact him through www.dmetraining.com.