“How you handle adversity in the workplace tends to have much more impact on your career than how you handle the good stuff.”

— Dr Martin Seligman

1. Optimism

 Rather than trying to minimize what’s worst in life, we should maximize what’s best.
— Dr Martin Seligman

Martin Seligman, noted for pioneering the fields of positive psychology and authentic happiness, developed the concept of “learned optimism.” He says, “When pessimistic people run into obstacles in the workplace, in relationships, or in sports, they give up. When optimistic people encounter obstacles, they try harder. They go the extra mile.”

Seligman invites pessimists to learn to be optimists by thinking about their reactions to adversity in a new way. The resulting optimism—one that grew from pessimism—is a learned optimism. The optimist’s outlook on failure can thus be summarized as “What happened was an unlucky situation (not personal), and really just a setback (not permanent) for this one, of many, goals (not pervasive)” Optimism is both a natural trait and a learned skill.

2. Mindfulness

To think in terms of either pessimism or optimism oversimplifies the truth. The problem is to see reality as it is.
– Thich Nhat Hanh

By training your mind to focus only on the present, you can learn to let go of regrets from the past or worries about the future, and accept things as they are. Mindfulness teaches you to be in control of your mind so that your mind doesn’t control you. Those who learn to be mindful experience less stress and clearer thinking. A pioneer of scientific research on meditation, Herbert Benson, extolls its benefits on the human body — reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and brain activity.

Mindfulness is not about “zoning out;”  but a time to purposefully pay attention to your emotions, thoughts, and how your body feels, without judging your experience of the present moment. “The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion,” says Thích Nh?t H?nh, “Live the actual moment. Only this actual moment is life.”

Mindfulness and meditation will help calm down the fight/flight/freeze mechanism of your brain, and create a space for higher order thinking and generating creative solutions.

Try these mindfulness techniques:

  • Sit in a comfortable position with a straight spine. Focus on your breath as you inhale slowly the exhale slowly. If you get lost in thought, simply bring your awareness back to your breath. If you are in turmoil put your hands on your heart as you breath slowly and deeply. Pay attention to your heart as you breath, and to the coolness of your breath as it passes through your nostrils.
  • Try breathing in to the count of four, hold your breath for a moment, then exhale to the count of four. Continue for three minutes and when you feel comfortable
  • Eat a meal in silence. Don’t do anything but focus on your food. Smell your food before eating it. Notice what your food looks like. Eat slowly, and savour each bite.

3. Imagination

Daydreams are fertile ground for the imagination to soar. Your unconscious is a rich source of images, ideas and experiences that lead to new connections, and fresh thinking.
—Linda Naiman

The best way to access your imagination, is to pause, let your mind quiet down, and allow your intuition to present insights and possibilities for creating a positive future. Running, biking, painting, cooking, yoga, and meditation all involve rhythmic movements that put your active thinking mind at rest, and allow daydreaming to occur. Ask yourself, what makes your heart sing? What makes you come alive?  When you have a spark of insight, test it out, take action and be creative.

Use your imagination to reframe your negative situation into one of positivity. Imagine the good that can come of this. Explore a range of possibilities. It helps to have a trusted thinking partner to look at your beliefs and your blind spot about the situation. What is the lesson to be learned?

4. Creativity

[Smart] is an elusive concept. There’s a certain sharpness, an ability to absorb new facts. To ask an insightful question. To relate to domains that may not seem connected at first. A certain creativity that allows people to be effective.
—William H. Gates

Creativity requires imagination and the ability to turn novel ideas into reality. It also requires resourcefulness and improvisation. Creative people are skilled at generating novel ideas; challenging assumptions, and not taking the status quo at face value; taking risks, exploring ideas, keeping options open; making connections between disparate elements and seeing new relationships between people, places and things; reflecting critically on ideas, envisaging possible solutions, and turning ideas into reality. Developing these skills will help you be more resilient.

5. Collaboration

Gettin’ good players is easy. Gettin’ ’em to play together as a team is another story
—Casey Stengel, manager of 7 World Series winning teams

In today’s competitive environment, collaboration is crucial for successful strategy execution, especially when projects are too complex for one team or one organization to handle. Yet many collaborations end up wasting time, energy and resources with endless meetings and little being accomplished in a timely way.

Leaders need to help people become self-reliant so they can solve problems cross-functionally, develop ideas, and fully leverage individual and team talent. Thanks to ever-evolving social media technology, it’s easier than ever to create virtual strategic alliances, share knowledge and ideas, and make meaningful connections that lead to new business opportunities. When collaboration is done well, work is a joy.

See also: 12 Ways to Enhance Creativity and Collaboration in Teams

6. Connection

When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.
—Daniel Goleman

Healthy relationships are at heart of creativity and collaboration. Appreciating others, engaging in purposeful conversations and the ability to resolve conflicts are essential ingredients for collaboration.  Communication is about making a connection, and a connection won’t happen unless we tap into our abilities to listen, to empathise, to really be present with others, and to talk about what matters. Find ways for people to get to know each other not just as professionals, but also as human beings, to build trust and provide occasions for informal social interaction.

7. Gratitude

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough. —Oprah Winfrey

According to the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley “The experience of gratitude encourages us to appreciate what is good in our lives and compels us to pay this goodness forward. People with more grateful dispositions report being happier and more satisfied with their lives. Gratitude also functions as social glue that nurtures the formation of new friendships, enriches our existing relationships, and underlies the very foundation of human society.”

There is also a surprising connection between gratitude and creativity.

Note: This post is republished from an earlier version from 2011.

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