Pat Iyer

By Pat Iyer

Focus on the Positive By Keeping a Journal

Focus on the Positive By Keeping a Journal 150 150 Patricia Iyer

As human beings, we seem to be wired to focus on the negative. What fills the news – positive or negative topics? Negative news gets our attention.

We concentrate on what needs to be fixed. This habit is called “negative bias.” It is easy to get sucked into negativity right now. Our lives are dramatically changed by the pandemic.

In psychological terms, negative bias means that even when two events have equal objective value, we focus more on the more negative event—negative thoughts, emotions, or interactions. If Margaret is part of a virtual networking event where she has a positive interaction with a prospect and a negative interaction with someone else, she will brood or worry about the negative exchange instead of remembering the positive one.

Wanting to Fix What’s Broken is Normal

In some ways, this is logical. If your car is running smoothly except for a faulty air conditioner, you are going to focus on that air conditioner because you know you need to get it fixed. With a negative social interaction, you analyze it to see how you could have handled it more effectively.

However, if you focus on negative events to the exclusion of positive ones, you erode the self-confidence that allows you to say, “I want to improve my ability in this area, and I know I can do it.” Instead, you may beat yourself up for failure.

You can see how self-doubt, fed by focus on “failures,” can foster fears that you aren’t a good leader.

Keep a Record of Your Successes

It takes effort, concentration, and commitment to release the automatic focus on the negative. One way to build these psychological muscles is to record your successes.

To build this positive habit, I recommend a daily accounting. To begin, get a small notebook or use your phone. Every time you have a positive experience, make a note of it.

“Juan praised my monthly report.”

“In today’s meeting, I managed to get Shoshonna and Fernando to see each other’s viewpoint.”

When you get home, take some time during the evening to add these successes to either a physical or a computer file. Expand your notes.

“Juan said that my report did a great job of summarizing the key challenges we’ll be facing during the coming quarter. He especially liked my analysis of cost projections. I know that I worked very carefully on those figures, and I feel rewarded for that effort.”

“Shoshonna and Fernando were at each other’s throats. At first, I wanted to jump in and break it up, but I decided to sit back and try to determine the source of the conflict between them. I heard that they weren’t listening to each other, and I found a way to point that out without blaming either of them.”

If you like, you can go even further into the details of what made your strategies work so well.

Let Your Records Serve as a Resource and Morale Booster

You have a day at work that seems to wipe out your morale. You’re not a leader, you tell yourself; you’ll never get the hang of this.

Read through your journal. Take in each success. You’ve proven yourself a leader before. You have that ability. One day is ONE DAY; it’s not the rest of your life.

Then you may want to look objectively at the supposed failures of this one day. Note, without blaming yourself, how you could have done something differently. Write down what you’ll do the next time such a situation arises. You may find that reading about your successes can provide valuable clues to these problems.

The beauty of keeping such a record/journal is that it takes you out of your internalized gloom and allows you to analyze events without self-judgment.

That’s what good leaders do.

If you have doubts about your ability to be a good leader, keep a record of your successes. You can also record your mistakes in a thoughtful way, analyzing them so as to avoid future errors. These entries will provide a record to which you can refer to reinforce your confidence.

Pat Iyer’s father taught her to focus on the negativity. She’s learned to see the positive in life. Pat works with business leaders as an editor, ghostwriter, and book coach. Reach her through patiyer.com.