The positivity challenge
Recently at Field Ready we’ve had the pleasure of welcoming new team members and having some great talks with staff who’ve been around a bit longer. We’re grateful and proud to be growing and working on such a bright future together.
One of the key things that binds us are our core values. One of these values is positivity. A new engineer, Angela, asked a great question: in the face of so many challenges, how do we maintain positivity? It’s a great question and so we wanted to share some thoughts here about staying positive.
To be sure, we work on – and are in a special position to actually address – some of the world’s biggest challenges (e.g., health, WASH, etc.) and it can be easy to get frustrated or discouraged. So having the right mindset and set of skills to snap back to a “positivity baseline” is crucial – for us as individuals and humanitarians, for the people we work with and for continuity of our work.
It’s important to realize that being positive is a choice. When confronted with something we don’t like, we can get angry...or we can choose the positive reaction and work with others to find a solution. In practice, not everything is simply binary; what’s important is the general direction and the behavior. There are positive ways to practice that. For instance, we tell our team members, “We want to know about problems, so please bring them forward – but when you do, bring proposed solutions so we can work to fix them.”
By recognizing that positivity is a choice, we can cultivate a mindset that includes abundance over scarcity. It’s not as easy “seeing the glass half-full,” but that’s a good place to start; an abundance mindset takes us places that a scarcity mindset can't.
To get there, start by asking yourself a few important questions: Are you safe? Do you have access to sanitation and drinking water? Did you have enough to eat today? Do you have shelter that keeps you warm/cool? Are you relatively healthy? If you can answer “Yes” to those questions, you have the foundation of abundance and can cultivate a positivity mindset.
Maintaining positivity very much requires making happiness a choice – definitely no easy task during this pandemic. But you can aim for happiness. For example, real happiness can come from setting up a clear sense of purpose, achieving a state of “flow” (which you can do with some practice) while working, helping someone else with a task or to achieve a goal, replace negative images with more positive ones or practicing gratitude. Seen this way, happiness (and hence positivity) comes out of inner strength; it can be both a developed skill and something that can be shared with others.
Because it deals with crisis, humanitarian work in particular can contribute to emotional burnout for even the hardiest of positive thinkers. To help our team members maintain positivity we encourage their ideas, celebrate their efforts and achievements, commiserate when things don’t work right and offer support.
And we laugh as often as we can: laughter is always good to establish – or re-establish – a positive mindset. Humor is one of the most powerful tools for getting anything done – even very serious work. Your favorite comedians’ stand-up routines on YouTube, jokes shared with friends, funny stories and books, humorous cartoons and memes or a goofy movie can all be really helpful and restorative.
We also share some resources that help us reflect on staying positive and how we can apply it as a team. Check them out and let us know if they work for you:
1) We use the Delivering Happiness Index in our appraisal and feedback sessions.
2) We strive to understand and use the “Circle of Influence” concept.
3) We practice the “Rule of 10” (this also goes by other names but is nonetheless useful).
4) We practice proven methods to stay positive – and there are lots of ideas here:
5) At the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas teach the popular course Humor: Serious Business, where they help some of the world’s most hard-driving, blazer-wearing business minds build levity into their organizations and lives. For a look at how to better incorporate humor into your work and personal life, you can give their book Humor, Seriously a read.
6) And, as Field Ready Executive Director Eric James says about this TED Talk: “I can’t watch this awesome talk about this subject and not feel more positive,” so you know that it's worth a look.
The work we do is positive at its very core, but staying in that mindset can be challenging when facing a crisis, disaster or conflict when “normal” comes crashing down. Working to maintain positivity takes some effort, but the result is phenomenal. What are your favorite ways to stay positive? Please share in the comments below!