September 4, 2009

Surviving Economic Crisis: The Value of Positive Thinking

I often speak with my husband Paul, a Clinical Psychologist, about stress and job loss. One of the major points he always makes is that it is not just a situation or an event that causes stress, it is how you perceive the event that really makes a difference. "One person might lose a job and be devastated; another person could see it as a challenge and an opportunity." Your very success in life depends on being positive. A good attitude helps you deal with the stuff that comes at you in life. You are more likely to do well in life if you perceive the world as a basically friendly place, filled with opportunity.

I think it happens right when you are born. A nurse-fairy either sprinkles sugar, or squeezes lemon on your little noggin, and you turn out to be a happy person with a good attitude or you are an unpleasant whiner. And you wake up each and every morning with a smile on your face, or you wake up crying and screaming. That is how your earliest experiences are formed. Your parents either see that cute smiling face or they get jolted out of bed with your screaming, and they react accordingly. And all throughout your life people respond to that perception of you.

According to my husband, the psychologist, people either thrive and survive or fail in life based on their attitudes. "The most important attitude is referred as the "sense of coherence", which has three elements: a sense that you understand what is going on around you; a belief that you can handle things and take care of business; and a feeling that things are worthwhile and meaningful."

Being positive is efficient. If you believe that you can handle things and take care of business you will set goals and map out a plan and proceed with it. Life is more manageable, and other people and opportunities are drawn to you. The converse is also true. If you are negative, you put out bad energy and no one wants to be around you. In life, there is not enough time to have a bad attitude. You will act based on your positive or negative view of the world. If you believe, for example, that there are no jobs out there, you will act accordingly and you will not be doing the things that are efficient like looking for a job.

Negative people also manage to thwart any opportunities that come their way. An interviewer for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories put it this way: "Being negative is a turn off." Facing rejection is a part of interviewing, but you are not allowed to lose your positive attitude and your smile. And criticizing or complaining about a previous employer or a project or a team member is the surest way to leave a bad impression. The result is that the employer is left with the sense that you have a problem or you are the problem.

So buck up! Recognize that you are a multi-talented individual who doesn't qualify to be permanently unemployed. You will get a job. You did learn a lot from prior jobs and from your training and education. Now figure out what the positive things are that you can share with the world, and get out there and work on it every day until you get to where you want to be. I love the quote from Thomas Jefferson: "I find the harder I work, the more luck I have".