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Positivity is Provocative — 3 Ways to Embrace Optimism in a Negative World How practicing gratitude, releasing negative people from your life and allowing yourself to dream again can reignite your passion for entrepreneurship.

By John Emery

Key Takeaways

  • Entrepreneurship isn't something to win or lose. It's about endurance, evolution and longevity.
  • If we want to endure as leaders, we need to have regular practices to protect and provoke our sense of optimism.
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I've unwittingly discovered this in my last decade of entrepreneurship: positivity is provocative.

In the modern workplace — where we find ourselves increasingly isolated and lonely as leaders — it's far more popular to be a pessimist. It's far easier to throw shade than it is to muster light. It's easier to criticize from the cheap seats than to be in the arena.

In addition to that, it seems that most of the content being thrown at us, especially in the entrepreneurial space, breeds a scarcity mindset. The vocabulary we hear is militaristic and anxiety-inducing: Chain of command. Scouting. Boots on the ground. Headcount. Target audience. Call to action. Front lines. Competitors. Hustle. Grind.

It's no wonder we get spun up into thinking there's a battle going on and that if we're not actively winning, we're losing. But we all know where that leads. Our adrenal glands can only handle so much caffeinated competition before we burn out.

Related: 3 Reasons Worker Loneliness Is Growing, and the Role Leaders Must Play

In his book "The Infinite Game," Simon Sinek encourages entrepreneurs to zoom out and abandon the thinking that views every business quarter as something to win or lose. He purports that the real goal should simply be to continue playing the game. Entrepreneurship isn't something to win or lose. It's about endurance, evolution and longevity — tinkering, innovating, observing, solving, exploring and adapting.

Related: An Inspiring Discussion With Simon Sinek About Learning Your 'Why'

So what do we do when we recognize we've fallen into a fog? When the mundane and monotonous has lobotomized us, and we can't grasp a shred of optimism to hang onto?

Here are some actionable steps I consistently use to get unstuck:

First, get away. A change of pace and a change of place. Take a moment to step back from the daily grind. Block the day off and go for a long drive. Find somewhere quiet, leave your phone in the car and bring a journal with you. Reflect on your journey thus far, and consider some of the following prompts:

  1. Practice gratitude. If you're reading this article on a computer or smartphone, you're almost certainly more privileged than most of the world already. It's easy for us to miss the forest for the trees. I've found that one of the most potent antivenoms to depression and/or anxiety is gratitude. Make a list of every good, simple, beautiful thing you experience on a regular basis. Reflect on that list. Not everyone has it that good.
  2. Release negative people from your inner circle. Make a list of people who bring you down. Name names. And then decide if they're worthy of a course-correcting conversation or are too set in their pessimism to redeem. You don't need to be entirely insulated from cynics, but you certainly don't need to allow them into your inner circle — where your guard is down, and you're most vulnerable to outside input.
  3. Allow yourself to dream again. Yes, actually. Put yourself ten years into the future, experiencing an ideal day. Journal through the day, almost hour by hour. What time do you wake up? Who are you with? What do you eat for breakfast? What time does work start? What are you doing for work? Where do you take your lunch break? What shape are you in physically? How much money are you making? When does the workday wrap? What's your evening like? Be as granular as you can, and allow yourself to imagine this aspirational future.

It's hard to prescribe knowing that everyone's experience is so vastly different, but this theme has been pervasive in my sphere lately, so I wanted to share what I've found helpful.

Related: 20 Thought-Provoking Journal Prompts to Help With Your Success

How can we possibly be entrepreneurial with a pessimistic outlook on the future? To be entrepreneurial means that we fundamentally believe we can improve things — that tomorrow can be better than today. That's the heart of entrepreneurship. As a result, if we want to endure as leaders, we need to have regular practices to protect and provoke our sense of optimism.

Sometimes, regular practice is all it takes to kickstart the flywheel of hope.

John Emery

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Founder of Emery: a Brand Consultancy

Former pastor turned entrepreneur, John is renowned for his human-centered approach to brand. In recent years he has emerged as a beloved guide for prominent cultural figures and Fortune 100 companies. His dream is to nurture the joy of success in others: "Growing fruit on other people's trees."

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.


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