One of the first lessons you’re taught in acting school (the first era of my career) is to always say yes. Or ‘Siempre si!’ as one particularly joyful teacher used to say. The word ‘no’ – and by extension, a negative mindset in general – is limiting. It closes doors, builds walls and keeps out opportunities. It closes YOU down. But saying yes and employing a positive mindset can open you up for a world of possibility.
The power of positive thinking has long been known as a useful tool for surviving today’s increasingly stressful work environments. But can positivity help you survive your day-to-day life and help you advance your career?
Having long utilized this frame of mind myself, I am here to tell you that it can. I never had any job remotely related to my acting degree after leaving college. This meant I have often found myself in roles where – because I didn’t have any formal training or education in said role – I had to rely on my other skills to get ahead. And let me tell you, saying yes to positivity time and time again in my various workplaces has opened up significant doors that otherwise would have stayed shut.
Here’s what I’ve learned about positive thinking:
You’ll be a better problem solver
Think about a time when you were faced with a problem. Was that problem easier if you felt angry, resentful or depressed about it? My hunch is that it wasn’t. Having a positive mindset can help you look at a tough situation and overcome it. It helps you look for the possibilities, instead of the problems.
Having a positive mindset also means instead of saying, ‘I don’t know how to do that’ you can say, ‘I don’t know how to do that…yet’. I have often found myself in a workplace situation where I felt like a fish out of water. Instead of focusing on what I didn’t know, I would choose to look at the situation as a chance to grow my knowledge or skillset. And each time, that’s exactly what I did. I learned about everything from drafting a budget and managing a team to the nuances in Burgundy wine just by saying yes. Over time, my bosses and peers came to see me as someone who was always up for a challenge, instead of someone who wasn’t quite ready for the task.
You’ll be someone others seek out
Once you’re known as a proactive problem solver, you’ll be a person that others come to when they need help, and this can give you a chance to show off your skills or impress your boss that you might not have otherwise had.
I was once asked to cover a colleague’s duties while he was on vacation; eager to learn about another area of the business I wasn’t familiar with, I said yes. And when that same employee left the company a couple of months later, guess who was promoted to take on that same role? This proved to be a major step-up for me, one I wouldn’t have gotten had I not said yes in that first instance.
There is, of course, a caveat – being positive doesn’t always mean you have to say yes to EVERYTHING that might get thrown your way. It is absolutely okay to say, ‘Let me think about that and get back to you,’ and then walk away and evaluate what you want to do. But by not immediately saying no, you present yourself as a person who is open and receptive, not negative and off-putting. You’ll find a lot more chances to showcase your talents this way. And the more chances you can show what a stellar employee you are, the more chances you’ll have to level up.
You’ll build your ally base
On the flip side, having a positive relationship with your co-workers can mean that when YOU have a problem, you will probably find it a lot easier to find someone to help you out when you need it. You have to spend 40+ hours a week with your colleagues – be someone others (including your bosses) want to be around! And as an added bonus, that could prove to give you the needed edge when it comes time for a promotion.
You can help build your own allies by helping build a more positive atmosphere in your workplace. In one office I worked at, I would send Monday Motivational Memes to my team first thing Monday mornings to start the week on the right foot – a picture of something cute or funny to put a smile on my co-workers’ faces as they start the work week (I always found pictures of tiny animals with an inspiring quote to be particularly effective).
While this may not be appropriate for every setting, think about ways you can inject a little smile or positive feeling to your office. Asking someone how their weekend was, offering to grab a coffee from the breakroom if you’re going or listening when someone just needs to vent are all ways to build a mutually positive relationship and grow your ally base in the workplace. And the more allies you have, the more support you’ll have when you need it.
You will succeed – just believe!
Above all, stay positive about yourself and your abilities! It’s so much easier to do something you believe you can than something you doubt yourself on. Channel your inner Little Engine That Could and get the thing done! Saying ‘yes’ to myself – even when I was scared out of my mind! – has led me to some amazing experiences (both job & life) that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
So, how do you be that positive person in the room? There are many articles dedicated to this very topic, but here’s what I’ve found useful:
- Smile. Genuinely and as often as you can. Even before you get into your office – smile at people on the bus, the barista who hands you your daily cappuccino, that person in the elevator whose name you can’t quite remember. Walking into the office already happy and grateful sets you up for success for the rest of the day.
- Find the humor in a difficult situation. We’re all going to have bad days. Or even bad weeks. Commiserate with your co-workers, try to find the funny in the ridiculousness of a terrible situation and soldier on. You will get through it, and it’ll be so much easier if you can have a little laugh along the way!
- ‘Siempre si.’ Always yes – to yourself, to opportunity, to growth, to success!