We may not be able to control everything that happens to us, but we are empowered to choose how we respond to our circumstances to facilitate positive outcomes.
We’re living in a time hungry for people to think, be and stay positive. The world needs individuals from all walks of life to step up and lead with positivity for the benefit of themselves and for those within their sphere of influence.
Our lives are filled with conflicting influences, with some influences that can be considered “positive” and other influences that can be considered “negative,” and still other influences that are neutral and are best understood as opportunities. From there we have a simple choice: to respond positively with fascination to create outcomes that are constructive, or to respond negatively with frustration to create outcomes that are destructive.
The choice of which response would be most appropriate can perhaps be made clear when we consider that many disciplines have suggested that negativity has a greater impact than positivity. For example:
The affects of negativity can be far reaching, and since these affects can be far worse than their corresponding positive influences, I suggest that this is a strong case for making positivity an intentional initiative rather than a happy happenstance, by focusing our choices that create outcomes that are constructive rather than destructive.
To paint a clear picture of the consequences of negativity in our lives, here’s a brief outline of some of these effects on our work, on our relationships, and on our health:
People spend a substantial part of their lives at work, and the quality of their workplace experience inevitably reflects in the quality of their lives. A single instance of a negative influence in the workplace can have a huge effect on an organization.
More than just a morale killer, according to a recent Gallup study negativity in the workplace costs the economy between $450 and $550 billion dollars annually! Negativity in the workplace is a communal effort. If we don’t step in to counteract it, then we are supporting it with our silence. Here’s a brief summary of the consequences of negativity in the workplace:
Negativity influences how team members work together—when attitudes aren’t in alignment stresses occur that lead to resentment and hostility, which can be expressed as gossip, lack of empathy, lack of understanding, or lack of communication.
Negativity influences a worker’s attitude—giving workers a “just a job” attitude where they only do “just enough” to keep their job rather offering energy and innovation to move an organization forward.
Negativity influences attendance—when the workplace isn’t a positive place to be workers look for an escape, whether through genuine stress-induced illness, or through inappropriately used sick days. According to some estimates this costs upwards of 9% of payroll.
Negativity influences employee retention—when the workplace is a source of negativity team members will look for other opportunities to jump ship, costing an organization lost productivity and revenue as new employees are recruited and trained.
According to some estimates the average internal cost of turnover ranges from 30% to 40% of an entry-level employee's annual salary, 150% of a mid-level employee's annual salary, and up to 400% of a highly skilled employee's salary.
When we choose to employ positivity principles and practices in our work, not only do we provide an environment and culture conducive to effective collaboration, but we also take responsibility for setting a good example for ourselves and for those around us.
Because negativity has such a far-reaching effect on not only our attitudes but also on the bottom-line, it follows that taking positive preventative action is a must.
The environment and mindset that we have at work can impact our relationships outside of work, by influencing our behaviors and attitudes among our personal relationships, whether among family or among friends.
It’s been said that people tend to rise or fall according to the sum total of their social circle, meaning if you spend a significant amount of time with a certain quality of social connections, whether they be positive, negative, or neutral, their influence will be seen in your own attitude, behavior, skills, and ambitions.
Just like in a workplace setting where one Negative Nancy or Negative Ned—or one Frustrated Francine or Frustrated Fred—can drag down an entire workplace culture, so too can just one negative individual in a social circle have a detrimental effect on the morale of the entire group.
Negativity among friends and family can present itself in subtle ways. It can appear as allowing destructive behavior to go unchecked, but it’s disguised as wanting to be nice or not wanting to “rock the boat,” or risk offending. It can come as complacency and stagnation, holding each other back out of fear of change. It can appear as playful jeering that when gone too far can lead to more overt negative consequences.
These more obvious impacts can lead to misunderstandings, resentment, being over critical of others all while ignoring our own shortcomings. It can lead to “coldshoulders,” silent treatments, ghosting, gossip, and a severe lack of perspective, understanding, and empathy. Most of all it robs us of enjoying the precious time that we have with those most dear to us.
When we choose to employ positivity principles and practices in our relationships, we end up choosing carefully who we associate with, and we become a positive influence for those around us.
Because negativity has such a far-reaching effect not only on ourselves, but also for the people within our sphere of influence, it follows that taking positive preventative action is a must.
These negative influences have just as much damaging impacts on our health. Stress-induced illness is a real thing that can lead to a weakened immune system, a decrease in pain tolerance, and an increased risk for heart disease.
While those are the extreme consequences caused by negativity, some of the less severe effects include anxiety and depression—which alone can lead to further negative consequences in all areas of life compounded by a poor attitude, decreased confidence, and lowered ambition.
Another conditioned caused by negativity that doesn’t get talked about as much is something called stress cardiomyopathy—a condition with similar symptoms to a heart attack and which results in your heart not working as well as it should.
All of these health risks caused by negativity can further lead to increased stresses in your relationships and in your work, which only adds more fuel to the cycle of negative influences.
When we choose to employ positivity principles and practices to our health, we do all that we can to remove or reduce negative influences that can potentially hold ourselves back from achieving the level of enjoyment and excellence that we deserve.
The affects of negativity can be far reaching—on our work, on our relationships, and on our health—and since the affects can be far worse than their corresponding positive influences, it follows that we should seek to be more intentional about our choices to create outcomes that are constructive rather than destructive.
The Positivity Magic Difference
How would your work be different if your workplace culture was a positive place to be? How would your relationships be impacted if you and the people you connect with practiced positivity principles by design rather than defaulting to negativity? How would your health be transformed if your life were infused with more constructive choices rather than destructive ones? We may not be able to control everything that happens to us, but we are empowered to choose how we respond to our circumstances to facilitate positive outcomes.
According to one study it’s suggested that 50% of our happiness or unhappiness is outside of our control—a “set point” decided by our DNA. 10% is decided by our “circumstances”—the environments we find ourselves in and the things that happen to us. The remaining 40% is decided by our “intentional activity”—the choices that we make, whether by default or by design, in response to our DNA and our circumstances.
The choices that we make, regardless of the circumstances and our heredity, can be a real game changer in whether we accept a life filled with negativity, or whether we choose instead to facilitate a life of positivity.
Positivity matters because we matter. Each and every one of us is uniquely poised to make the world around us better simply because we are here. To help facilitate these positive experiences a good place to start is by making better choices at work, in our relationships, and for our health.
If you’d like more ideas on how to leverage positivity in your life, check out my other articles in this Positivity Papers series, browse books on positivity, watch Magic Words videos for concise weekly coaching, listen to the On a Positive Note podcast, or take an online course on positivity. If you’re looking for a personalized approach then you can sign up for group coaching here, or if your organizational team is in need of positivity training to improve workplace culture, you can schedule a Hashtag Positivity workshop here.
Jonas Cain is a Purveyor of Positivity and Facilitator of Fascination, offering support to emerging leaders and their influencers to develop resilience.