Soft Skill: Positive Attitude

You're not a Pollyanna if you think optimistically

Businessman Midair in a Business Meeting
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People are predisposed to think negatively. It makes sense – when our ancestors were hanging around the jungle, being able to spring into action at the slight sound of a snapping twig was a matter of life or death. It was a great thing then, because their fear and vigilance allowed us to survive into the 21st century. But now that most of us are trying to outrun deadlines instead of fanged beasts, we've come to feel the effects of negativity's close cousins – stress and depression.

One solution to these modern day problems contradicts the worldview of our prehistoric brethren: positive thinking. Studies have shown that positivity, or optimism, is linked to longer life, increased pain tolerance and better overall health. Optimistic people are also able to see the bigger picture, causing them to preform better at work and make better decisions under duress. Ultimately, they make more money and are more likely to get promotions.

Realists with belief in a better future
To be clear, optimists are not the happy-go-lucky suckers that people usually refer to when they throw around the word as an insult. They do not hold the Pollyannaish view that all is well in the world and that when their bosses or co-workers are making them miserable they should just swallow their problems and be grateful to be employed. That's just irrational.

Optimists can be perfectly realistic, just like pessimists. Where they differ is how they think about adversity and its causes. While a pessimist may feel a challenging project is almost insurmountable, triggering feelings of powerlessness, an optimist will begin thinking of solutions and start chipping away at the parts of the project they know they can handle first. The Happiness Advantage author Shawn Achor defines optimism as "a realistic assessment of the present, while maintaining a belief that our behavior will eventually create a better reality."

> Find a job today

Of course, it's easier to point out a problem than to fix it. For that, AOL Jobs has rounded up the top resources that will get you thinking positively in no time. Check out the list below.

Bouncing back

Coming back from a negative performance review
A bad performance review isn't the end of the world but it's hard not to feel crushed. Career experts say the best thing to do is to find a healthy outlet for your emotions first. When you're levelheaded, you can think about the reasons for the bad critique and work to solve them rationally.

Shaking off the layoff blues
Ultimately, a layoff is a business decision, so worrying about what you could have done to avoid it is a futile exercise. Handle it with grace and move on.

Making mistakes work for you
It's tempting to think the worst when you make a mistake at work, but if you show humility and the desire to learn from it, you can save some face and recover quicker.

Things you can do

'Asset-Based Thinking'
While deficit-based thinking is focusing on what's wrong, asset-based thinking is pinpointing the assets at your disposal to help you work toward a solution.

Volunteering
Volunteering gives people a renewed sense of purpose. This is the perfect activity for the unemployed and underemployed, who have extra time to fill, but even full-timers should consider giving a few hours every week or month.

Power posing
There's evidence that "power posing" lowers stress levels and increases confidence." Amy Cuddy demonstrates in a Ted Talk how to practice power poses anywhere -- even in a bathroom stall.

Understanding the power of positivity

Five myths about fighting the blues
Certain self-treating methods for the blues have become collective wisdom, but they can actually make us feel worse in the end.

How optimism can be learned
The first steps to changing how we think is to figure out why we think that way and how that thinking effects our perspective and actions.

Negativity is like second-hand smoke
Negativity affects everyone it touches, not just the person expressing it. It makes others anxious and irritable and harms relationships.

The science of positivity
The science behind positive thinking has grown robust in recent years, backing up with hard evidence that it has major health benefits and fosters problem-solving.

How positive thinking can improve your focus and creativity
Researchers have found that negative emotions sabotage our focus and problem-solving skills. A University of North Carolina researcher suggests a "positivity ratio" of 3-to-1 for life-changing benefits. You can test your ratio with a two-minute quiz.

> Great positivity. Spread the words.

> Find a job you love today


Photo source: Getty Images

Check out more quotes on the virtues of positive thinking here.

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