I'm a great believer in optimism. As a way of life, business strategy, or leadership philosophy, optimism will serve you well in the good times and the bad. If you don't believe me, compare how many times you accomplished great things in life because you first thought, "This can't be done, I'm going to fail" compared to "This is going to be fun?" Your optimistic list is so big it probably makes your pessimistic list feel inadequate.
This is why I love the philosophy of John and Bert Jacobs, the co-founders of The Life is Good Company. These two didn't find success by fear mongering, trolling, or overexposing themselves on Instagram. They found business success by believing the world is a good place and then coming up with a t-shirt line that simply said "Life is Good." People were drawn to this slogan so much their business continued to grow despite the many business mistakes they made.
After watching their talks, reading their book, and working with them on speaking engagements, I came away with these two ideas that have inspired my optimistic executive approach.
Tell me something good
When Bert and John Jacobs were growing up in a large family with little money, their family didn't dwell on their problems or what they didn't have. Each time they sat down at the dinner table, Bert and Jacob's mother would cut through the noise and say, "Tell me something good that happened today." By focusing on the good things that happened each day, their mother changed the energy in the room--and their family.
I apply a similar philosophy at my meetings. We start each meeting with asking, "What's up, what's down, and what's stuck?" I've found that by starting with the phrase "What's up?" as in what's going well, my team immediately focuses on the positive work that is being accomplished in our department. What could have easily become a bitch fest, complaining about problems and coworkers, instead becomes mutual praise and celebrations of accomplishments. The positive energy carries over into problem solving and we get more done.
Focus on the positive in your team to build the energy in the group. Focusing on the positive give people the confidence to tackle anything that comes their way.
"Get to" versus "have to"
You can also change your mindset by changing your vocabulary. It's not just my idea. All psychologists, political activists, and propagandists know this.
While it might seem simplistic to suggest that changing your sentence from "I have to go to the grocery store" to "I get to go to the grocery store" will make you happier, it does in the long term. But it's not just saying the words. It's also realizing that "getting to go" to the grocery store also means you have money to pay for food, you live in a world of abundance, and you are able and healthy enough to go shopping in the grocery store to get the food. When you realize getting to go to the grocery store is a remarkable thing the traffic and parking don't seem so bad.
I remind myself of this every day when I travel for work. Every time I get to go through airport security, every time I get to wake up in different time zone, every time I get to eat in a different restaurant, it's because I have a job that I love. It's a mantra that reminds my team we get to do the work we are doing with keynote speakers. Not everyone gets the opportunity to work with top thought leaders and help spread their empowering messages.
Change your language to focus on gratitude and your optimism will grow.
Overall, I've found focusing on the good things that happen and on "getting to" do things has helped set a positive tone for our company. Don't get me wrong, we have our bad days just like everyone else--and it's a constant process to practice the philosophy-- but in the end, our lows are shorter and our highs are higher.