Monday, May 6, 2013

Staying afloat

From the time we are young we are schooled in the necessity to persevere.  Parents, teachers, clergy, classic literature and popular culture all channel adages and aphorisms designed to inculcate the idea that if you just keep at it, all will eventually work out in your favor.  

In other words "soldier on."  

Perhaps one of the most famous quotes on the subject from my boyhood was Vince Lombardi's motto: "Winners never quit and quitters never win."  We've written about overcoming failure as an ingredient in the recipe for success on a couple of occasions ourselves, including this post.

We all want to be winners in life, whatever our personal definition of that term may be.  Lost in the sea of exhortation though is practical, actionable advice:  "How do I do that?" Science shows that it is much more than simply the power of positive thinking.

In his book, "To Sell is Human," author Daniel H. Pink notes that whether or not the job title includes the word "sales," the vast majority of us humans are selling in some form or fashion -- moving others to take an action.   Pink lays out the attributes of a successful human "salesperson," and examines what psychologists and social scientists say are the three components of one of them: a characteristic that Pink calls "buoyancy."
  1. Interrogative self-talk:  We all talk to ourselves.  Pink writes that science shows that the best internal conversation is not necessarily positive self-talk (I am the best) but one that allows for questioning in building or reinforcing a belief (Can I do this?), and "inspire thoughts about autonomously or intrinsically motivated reasons to pursue a goal."  Think more "Bob the Builder," than Tony Robbins.
  2. Positivity ratios: Positivity is incredibly important in moving people to take action.  In his book, Pink quotes researcher Barbara Frederickson saying: "Positive emotions...broaden people's ideas about possible actions, opening our awareness to a wider range of thoughts and...making us more receptive and more creative."  Negativity is important too, judiciously and appropriately applied.  The perfect ratio for success?  3:1.
  3. Explanatory style: How you interpret events and explain them to yourself is a critical success factor.  Those with a more optimistic view of setbacks ("it's just temporary") have significantly higher success rates than those with a more pessimistic view.  Scholar Martin Seligman says "flexible optimism -- optimism with it's eyes open," is a key to what Pink calls "tough-minded buoyancy -- the proper balance between downward and upward forces."
Pink writes that "staying afloat in an ocean of rejection is [an] essential quality of moving others." I say it's an essential quality of success in all things.

Carry on.

No comments: