From stress to success in four easy steps

In today’s high-velocity workplace environment, you need robust tools for managing stress. That’s what researchers from positive psychology bring you. In a previous article Stay positive in tough times, I explained four ways to stay resilient when experiencing setbacks.

  • Always have hope
  • Connect to your sense of higher purpose
  • Look after yourself
  • Operate from a belief that solutions can be found

Here’s an example of how resilient thinking can help you thrive during change at work. Imagine an organisational restructure has just been announced. People are starting to gossip and word is out that your department is going to be shut down. Instead of joining in, here’s how you could handle the situation with resilience and optimism.

Build hope by putting things in perspective

Martin Seligman is an expert in the area of learned optimism. He points out that pessimistic thinkers frame negative experiences as both permanent (in other words, ongoing) and pervasive (impacting all areas of your life). Optimists, on the other hand, see challenging events such as redundancy, as short-term and limited to impacting on one or two aspects of your life. Use rational thinking tools to create a hopeful vision of the future and an action plan for how you will turn that vision into reality. If you find this difficult, find a coach or mentor to support you. Contact Eleanor Shakiba if you would like details on how coaching works.

Actively shape your own future

Being in limbo is an unsettling experience. Waiting passively for something to happen, or decisions to be made, erodes your confidence and saps your energy. People thrive on taking action and working towards meaningful goals. So don’t sit still – take matters into your own hands by defining your goals for the next stage of your career.

Build your physical strength as well as your psychological strength

It’s easy to slip into bad self-care habits during times of change. For example, if members of your team have recently been made redundant, your workload might increase overnight. Working longer hours to compensate might seem like a sensible solution. However, it’s likely that longer work hours will lead to reduced exercise levels, disrupted sleep patterns and way too many takeaway meals.

Always put your physical health first in times of challenge and adversity. Remember that when the going gets tough, the tough get going… to the gym. Or to a dance class. Or to the yoga studio.

Ask yourself solution-focused questions

If you find yourself worrying or feeling powerless, use solution-focused questions to blast through negative thinking. For example, ask yourself:

  • Which parts of the situation do I have the power to change?
  • What benefits might this change bring me?
  • What are five positive things I can do right now?
  • What resources can I draw on?

Famed jazz trumpeter Miles Davis once said, “When you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that makes it good or bad.” Keep this in mind the next time you face problems at work.

About the author of this article

Eleanor Shakiba is has dedicated her career to helping talented professionals develop their confidence, communication skills and leadership savvy. She is a positive psychology trainer and success coach. Find out how Eleanor can help you or your team here.

Stay positive in tough times

How would respond if you made a huge mistake at work? What if you suddenly lost your job? What would your next steps be? Are you resilient enough not to break from the stress?

Resilience is not just a word touted in workplace well-being programs – it’s a fundamental approach to life. It’s the ability to bounce back from adversity and to experience setbacks without letting them negatively impact your optimism for the future.

Resilient thinkers have a core set of beliefs and practices in common. How can you can adopt these beliefs and practices? Here are some tips to get you started.

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Empower your people from within

Many people feel powerless and frazzled in challenging situations. As an HR practitioner, you can play a huge role in changing this situation. If you have read my article Take charge of your life you know how to increase self-efficacy and help people operate from an internal locus of control by:

  • Believing they can have an impact
  • Monitoring and managing their internal dialogue
  • Turning off their automatic ‘Yes’ reactions
  • Finding new ways to do things
  • Now let’s look at some higher-level strategies you can use to foster emotion regulation in your business

Recruit for self-efficacy

Ideally, you should hire employees who already have a good sense of self-efficacy and strong internal locus of control. How do you do that? By asking probing questions, posing hypothetical situations and using robust psychometrics. Find out how candidates handle setbacks and challenges. Ask about their emotion management strategies, not just their job skills.

Educate employees in disputing negative self-talk

Teach your employees about irrational self-talk, self-efficacy and locus of control. Explain the basics of neuroplasticity and brain ‘rewiring’ so people understand that learning can happen at any age. Good places to include discussions about self-efficacy include customer service, communication skills, time management and leadership development training sessions.

Challenge actual talk (not just self-talk)

When you hear employees engaging in talk that indicates an external locus of control, help them reframe their perspective. Use Seligman’s ABCDE model of thought disputation when coaching for mindset change.

Promote a curiosity mindset

Curiosity is empowering because it promotes innovative perspectives and self-direction. Reward curiosity in the workplace. Encourage employees to seek new models of thought, not just in their work but in their everyday lives. Champion a growth mindset in which employees embrace challenges and persist, instead of giving up.

For more information about positive psychology training, reach out to Eleanor Shakiba. Learn how to take control of your life by harnessing the power of optimism and self-efficacy.

About the author of this article

Eleanor Shakiba is a positive psychology trainer. She trains and coaches people in high-intellect professions – such as academia, education, project management, research and development, and engineering. Her expertise in teaching positive psychology makes Eleanor a highly sought-after facilitator. Find out how she can help you or your team here.

Empower yourself from within

Many people feel powerless and frazzled in stressful situations. But YOU don’t have to be one of those people. If you’ve read Take charge of your life, you know how to increase your self-efficacy and operate from an internal locus of control. Remember the basics:

  • Believing you can have an impact
  • Monitoring and managing your internal dialogue
  • Turning off the automatic ‘Yes’
  • Finding new ways to do things

Now let’s look at how you can use these tips in practical ways during the average working day.


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Take charge of your life with 4 easy steps

Do you sometimes feel like you’re not in control of your own life? Do most situations leave you feeling lost or helpless? If that’s the case, you need is an internal locus of control.

Locus of control is where you believe the control in your life comes from. When you have an external locus of control, you see people or factors outside of yourself as ‘controlling’ your life. Conversely, having an internal locus of control means that you believe you have some control over the events in your life. You know you can’t influence everything, but you believe you can manage your own actions and thinking processes.


So how can you operate from an internal locus of control? Here are four tips I give students in my Positive Psychology training courses:

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Control emotions so they don’t control you

Have you ever said something in anger that you later wish you could take back? When you act on your emotions too quickly, you often make decisions that you later regret.

Your emotions are connected to key drives in your psych. They can seem to creep up without warning and completely take over. Emotion regulation allows you to recognise and manage your feelings so they don’t drive your behaviour.  

Emotional Intelligence expert Daniel Goleman has shown that emotion regulation is one of four key skills that contribute to professional success. Like any other skill, emotion regulation takes time and practice.

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Improve your relationships with ONE skill

When a relationship has soured, how do you turn it around? The answer is to give positive attention to the other person.  

Humans need positive attention in the same way we need air. Like oxygen, positive attention is essential to both our physical and mental well-being. The key to positivity in any relationship is active constructive communication. To be active constructive, you need to show genuine interest. For example, you might ask for more information or say, “Wow, that sounds like a surprise…” 

To respond in active constructive mode, react to others’ bids for attention in positive ways. You also need to bid for their attention – but in ways that build the relationship. There are four simple ways to do this.  

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Let’s look back as well as forward this New Year’s Eve

As December ends and January begins, how will you mark the transition to a new year? Many of us “celebrate the New Year.” We mark those celebrations with parties and toasts to the upcoming year. The more serious of develop plans, otherwise known as New Year’s resolutions. And all of us hope that the next 12 months are going to be special. Looking at these New Year rituals through the eyes of an anthropologist, something strikes me. These celebrations are all about looking forward and leaving the past 12 months behind.

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