Feeling Good Works: Why Optimism Injects New Life into Productivity

“Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power.” – William James, American philosopher and psychologist.

Pessimism is trending nowadays; the old can-do Horatio Alger attitude has been deemed old fashioned. Of course, some segment of the populace has always found it fashionable to sneer at the “naive,” but the ranks of the disaffected have swollen in recent years due to the disappointment of the Great Recession, a long-static job-market, and the failure of the old employer/employee social contract. And that’s understandable.

But any assumption that most modern workers, especially the up-and-coming Millennial generation, are simply unwilling to work hard is simply not true; and it’s a mistake to ever think otherwise. Now more than ever, workers want to feel like what they do matters. They want to enjoy what they do for a living; and they’re willing to reach for just about any tool to achieve it, including applying the power of optimism to their own work—and their team’s. Idealism may be something the workplace grinds out of you, but you don’t have to let optimism go with it.

In fact, optimism can inject new life into your productivity efforts—and it’s proven to work. Some observers claim up to 75% of all success is based on job optimism. Even if that’s an—ahem—optimistic estimate, reasonable, eyes-wide-open optimism still boosts productivity; how can it not, when you’re always seeking the silver lining?

My father used to describe me as “bright-eyed and bushytailed.” I like to think of that as my default state and believe it boosts my productivity. Here’s why:

  1. Positivity is contagious. When you maintain an optimistic attitude, you cheer people up and improve your social connections. Think about it: is it easier to work with the churlish curmudgeon or the smiling optimist? Optimism doesn’t mean you’re a pushover or you believe you can do anything; it just makes it easier to get things done because people appreciate your pleasant nature.

  2. Optimistic people are physically healthier. You can’t do your best work when you’re feeling ill, tired, or worn out. Several long-term, large studies have shown that people who do their best to remain optimistic—whether it’s a natural thing, or they’re deliberately trying—stay healthier overall, and find it easier to cope with health issues that do occur.

  3. If you feel optimistic, you do better work. Positive thought energizes you, making it easier to push through difficulties and disappointments. This is especially true if you know you and your team are all in it together and are all willing to do what it takes to reach your goals.

  4. Optimism prevents depression. Positive emotions broaden and build rather than tear down what you’ve accomplished. Sometimes something must be torn down and disposed of before you can start anew, but most of the time, it’s a waste—especially when you’re talking about the goodwill and positive human relationships that take so long to build. The result? When things are bad, you get more depressed. If you can maintain optimism even in the worst of situations, you can at least minimize that destructive depression.

  5. Optimism increases curiosity, sparking creativity. As the Harvard Business Review points out, positive work cultures are more productive. Not surprisingly, cutthroat work cultures, as encouraged by the Great Recession, generate destructive stress and strain destroying not just individual health, but the health of the team, straining ties necessary to move ahead productively. Positive companies where everyone cares about and looks out for each other, and who share an optimistic vision of the future? Not so much. Their employee healthcare costs are about 50% less than those of high-pressure companies. According to the American Psychological Association, high-pressure jobs cost the economy about $500 billion a year.

Smiles, Everyone, Smiles

We all have our bad days, but no one has them constantly. Rather than deliberately feeding a bad vibe or letting yourself spiral downward because you think you’re too busy or don’t care, take the time to take a good look at the world and, as the song says, “ac-cen-tu-ate the positive.” Is it really so hard to smile?

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email Christine@TheProductivityPro.com, or CONTACT US.

Here’s what others are saying:

“Laura Stack’s session with a group of our seasoned operations managers was eye-opening. We all learned new ways to be more productive with the tools we already have. I’ve never seen each of our seasoned, experienced operations managers so engaged in a session. Many of our senior and mid-level leaders were wowed by what they learned and have already begun using the new techniques with their teams.”
—Mary Pawlowski, Learning Design, Piedmont Natural Gas

“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff

“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.

“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland