Counting blessings

Posted in: Bloggery

Every now and then I need to get myself by the scruff of my neck in a stock taking effort.  “What is working right now?” “What does the business have going for it this year? “ “What have been some recent successes?” “Maybe you should count your blessings?”

Why do I need to shake myself periodically to sit up and enjoy my blessings?

When you run a business, or occupy a leadership role, it is very easy to get caught up in work and to become driven and feel that you are running on a treadmill pre-occupied with getting results. These pressures cause leaders to decrease the empathy they show towards others and the enthusiasm they bring to their colleagues. Leadership can become transactional, in a command and control mode.

There can also be some inherent “bleakness”.  Introverts like me can tend to fester internally.  We are all also surrounded by negative press and politicians, significant economic challenges all over the world, and of course something of a struggle for growth and survival in many businesses throughout Australia.  The environment feeds worry in all of us.

So what did my most recent stocktake reveal?

Macfarlan Lane is travelling well.  The business model works.

We have a terrific bunch of colleagues, who value each other and work well both collectively, and as individual career transition experts with a wide range of people.  They are especially good at helping people discover and build on their gifts.

We have successfully focused our practice on working in a bespoke fashion with increasingly senior people, including numbers of CEOs and Partners.  For all of us, the “pull” which brings us to work each day is the inestimable rewards in working with people to help them redesign and capture new careers.

There is the sheer pleasure in helping senior leaders recover from the stresses of being in an uncaring, transactional environment – seeing them rebalance and take stock at an individual level.

There are another bunch of blessed relationships and rewards on the family side.

That will do for now.

Emboldened with these recent personal reflections, the latest short paper we have published is called “Leading with Optimism in Uncertain Times”.  We develop papers like this looking around us, and in trying to construct positive pathways for our readers in their working lives.  (This is another blessing I “count” – one of working with several people who really enjoy writing and thinking.)

This particular paper has just been posted on this website by the way – you will find it in “Perspectives”, under “Reading, Research and Publications”.

Optimism, authenticity, and enthusiasm are often built, not so much by thinking but by doing: changing your practices.  Longitudinal academic research demonstrates that we need a lot more positive feelings to overwhelm the negative ones – 3 to 1 is the magic formula, according to Barbara Fredrickson1.

A ratio of at least three-to-one—three positive emotions for every negative emotion—serves as a tipping point, which will help determine whether you languish in life, barely holding on, or flourish, living a life ripe with possibility, remarkably resilient to hard times.  Fredrickson’s own research focuses on what she calls the “broaden-and-build theory.”  Simply put, positive thinking opens our minds. Positive thinkers literally see more of the world around them and are more likely to find innovative solutions to problems.

This needs to be authentic and light, it won’t work if it’s insincere and forced.  So, how is this mindset fostered?  It helps to be open to our current circumstances. To be less preoccupied worrying about the future and ruminating about the past so we’re completely oblivious to the goodness that surrounds us in the present moment.

But when we’re really open to our current circumstances and take the time to be grateful for what is working well in our lives, those sources of goodness are so much easier to draw from, and they yield positive emotions.

This blog has been a bit of a pep-talk to myself.

1. Fredrickson, B. L. The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions.In F. A. Huppert, N. Baylis, & B. Keverne (Eds.) The Science of Well-Being (pp. 217-238). New York: Oxford University Press.