Want to Flourish in Business? Cultivate Positivity

The power of positivity isn't just in your head. It can also do wonders for your startup.

learn more about Joshua Medcalf

By Joshua Medcalf


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As a young founder, the downtimes can be plentiful and often challenging. But it's absolutely vital to prevent negativity from invading your day to day.

Just ask behavioral psychologist Barbara Fredrickson whose research on positivity, led her to develop a concept called "positivity ratios," which compare the amount of times you're either positive or negative within a given time frame. In her book on the subject, she claims that these ratios can accurately forecast whether you are depressed, languishing or flourishing in life.

Simply put, the more positive thoughts firing across your synapses -- and the fewer negative ones -- the higher your ratio will be. The results can be startling: A ratio of 1 to 1 forecasts "clinical depression." A ratio of 2 to 1 forecasts "languishing," and a ratio of over 3 to 1 forecasts "flourishing." You can test yourself for free at her website PositivityRatio.com.

Related: How to Train Your Brain to Stay Positive

For me, the most fascinating aspect of Fredrickson's research is the concept that heartfelt positivity is self-propagating. She says that when someone breaks that tipping point of 3 to 1, positivity doesn't simply reflect flourishing: it actually creates it. Given the abundance of positivity, we're all capable of becoming perpetual motion machines of "gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love."

So the question then becomes, how do you promote more positivity? Here are three tips:

1. Be grateful.
To increase your positivity ratio, try being more grateful for everything from your friends and family to being able to work on projects you love.

I've taken this to heart by starting each day with at least 15 minutes of gratefulness-focused prayer, thanking God for all I've been blessed with. Because the reality is, even at my lowest, my quality of life has always been at least ten times greater than many people around the world who lack access to clean drinking water, nutritious food and medical care.

Related: How to Stay Motivated When the Going Gets Rough (Video)

2. Positively visualize.
Just as gratefulness can spur positivity, mental visualizations can be a powerful driver. As visualizing yourself being positive or doing things that make you happy, tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies in the physical world. Starting a day with a smile can go a long way, for instance.

The trouble is, that this idea works both ways. In the face of obstacles, people have a tendency to worry. That's natural, of course, but it also leads to negatively visualizing, and as a result it can cause you to self-sabotage our own success.

When we catch ourselves worrying, we should pump the brakes and positively visualize. One key here is to focus on things inside of our control. So instead of visualizing potential clients saying yes to you in a pitch meeting (their choices are outside your control), visualize yourself delivering the pitch with confidence, charisma and positive energy.

3. Dispute your doubts.
I'm a very confident person. Routinely, people inform me that I have more confidence than almost anyone they've ever met, and, yet, I still have doubts. One tool I've found helpful is to dispute my own internal negative self-talk with hard evidence. In his book Learned Optimism, Martin Seligman suggests writing down your individual negative thoughts on the front of, say, 10 different notecards. For example, one of mine is "You have no business working with this team; you don't even have a degree in sport psychology."

Related: Negative Nelly Must Be Stopped: How to Make Objective Decisions

Then on the back of the cards, write down three pieces of hard evidence that dispute the negativity. Using my example, the back of the card says 1.) You were the third outsider ever to be invited to work with UNC Women's soccer, and you received the highest reviews. 2.) You are the director of mental training for UCLA Women's Basketball 3.) You have received great reviews from almost every client you've worked with.

Many times, negativity is smoke and mirrors, and an exercise like this helps clear the air and expose its fallacies.

What are your own positivity-cultivating ideas? Let us know in the comments section below.

Joshua Medcalf

Joshua Medcalf is an entrepreneur who founded Train to be CLUTCH, a business and life consultancy through which he works with top performers all over the world from many different professions. Medcalf has created some of the first mental training apps in the world for soccer, basketball and golf and started a nonprofit that trains athletes in one of the toughest housing projects near his home in Los Angeles. He is also the director of mental training for UCLA women’s basketball. And when time permits, he travels around the country doing workshops for a variety of business, sports and school groups.

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