How to use present-moment awareness for a productive, positive working day

We all know that a positive attitude is good for strong performance and solid relationships at work – essential for any successful social enterprise. But don’t assume that you’re either born with that positive mindset or not, says Whitten & Roy Partnership's Scott Roy. Each of us can learn how to manage our attitudes and shift them – the key is noticing what’s going on and making the conscious decision to change it

Clients often tell us how difficult it is to find enough employees who are motivated, purposeful, resilient, self-disciplined and enthusiastic. The misconception is that people are either born with a good attitude, or not. This mindset blinds managers from discovering that rather than needing to hire new staff, their people can learn how to manage their attitude and shift it at will.

Stuff happens all the time at work, and in life in general, that can easily dispirit and discourage even the heartiest social entrepreneur, from funding gaps to policy changes to capacity challenges.

But even the smallest of things trigger a change in attitude. In one moment you’re content, level-headed and focused. Then you read an email from your boss, look at your balance sheet, or realise you’ve deleted the wrong file. Suddenly, you’re agitated, discouraged, frantic, resentful. You might say the incident caused you to feel this way, and you’re right: if it hadn’t happened, you’d be doing just fine.

The problem is that your mind works at lightning speed. When something happens that you don’t like, your mind kicks into gear fast. It judges what just happened, draws conclusions, and makes predictions in a matter of seconds. Suddenly you’re overwhelmed by negative feelings. And when they linger, they interfere with your performance.

When something happens that you don’t like, your mind kicks into gear fast. It judges what just happened, draws conclusions... Suddenly you’re overwhelmed by negative feelings

So, if you want to perform well, common sense dictates that you elevate your attitude to an optimal state as fast as possible. You need to move from self-pity or feeling discouraged, to feeling in control, being confident, or reclaiming your personal authority. But how?

We’ve developed an effective four-step process that we teach to all our clients with truly transformational effects. You can learn, practice and master it too.

1. Notice your attitude when it slips.

This can be easier said than done! Often it’s others who spot it first when negativity creeps in (which is why one of the things we at Whitten and Roy Partnership do is help people become aware of their state of mind.)

Attitude shows up in three ways: what you are doing (or not doing), what you are saying (or not saying) and what you’re feeling. If you can tune into these three things regularly, you will be able to ‘see’ and assess your attitude quickly. 

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2. Choose to elevate it.

Once you notice that negativity – we refer to this as ‘below the line’ – make a conscious decision to elevate your attitude to one that is ‘above the line’.

This can prove tricky, especially if you’re feeling angry with someone and want to let them know that their behaviour is not okay. However, shifting your attitude doesn’t mean you are letting the other person off the hook, at least not immediately. Instead, you can choose to elevate your attitude simply for your own sake and wellbeing.

3. Elevate it immediately.

You then do two things that appear simple, but take a surprising amount of mental discipline: a) getting oneself into the ‘present moment’, and b) admitting what one genuinely wants.

To help people become present, we teach a modern application of an ancient technique we call split attention. (To find out more, watch this video tutorial with our co-founder Dr Roy Whitten. He focused his PhD on concepts of neuroplasticity – his findings on attitude formed the basis of our sales consultancy’s orientation.)

It involves continuing to focus on what you were doing before your attitude dropped, while at the same time focusing part of your attention on something physical or something you can feel, for example your breath.

Once focused in the ‘here and now’, you can explore what you want and why you want it.  This is another simple task that can be surprisingly difficult at first. Stick at it though, and you’ll see the result.

When people manage to do both of these things at the same time, even for only 30-45 seconds, they will nearly always feel their attitude move back up again.

4. Choose your next step.

With an elevated attitude, you can make clear, well-considered choices. This is a very important step that will get you back into action and feeling in control of your emotions.

Managing your attitude takes discipline, but it is worth it. The impact on your work and the people around you is significant. And when each member of your team learns how to do it, the impact is transformational. It’s just the right remedy for a social enterprise that relies on proactive, positive people to deliver an important mission.

Whitten and Roy Partnership will be presenting a session on this topic at next week's Good Deals + Beyond Good Business, providing real life coaching, tools and solutions to address some of the challenges of social entrepreneurs in order to make a positive impact and build a successful social business. Last remaining tickets are available here.

Header photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash