Attitude Drives Self-fulfilling Prophesies

A recent article by Harvard Business Review gives advice about how to keep one’s preconceptions from skewing decisions. According to the article, six behaviors bias a person’s worldview. In particular, confirmation bias reaffirms snap judgments to create self-fulfilling prophesies. If you have a positive outlook on life, then you see endless possibilities and very likely exhibit the drive to achieve incredible accomplishments. You make up your mind and go for things that seem beyond the reach of other people.

In contrast, the Eyeores of the world fence themselves in behind self-imposed limitations—and therefore severely limit their potential.

They say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks. But, the science shows that we can actually improve our positivity factor by adjusting how we react to situations. Over time, you can train yourself to have a more positive emotional response when something ‘bad’ happens.

That’s easy enough to say, but what happens when you experience a toxic work environment? When negativity surrounds you, it’s far too easy to get sucked into a counterproductive energy drain that pulls you down along with everyone else.

Here’s what’s happening. Inc. reports that listening to someone whine for just 30 minutes begins to peel away the neurons in your hippocampus, which hijacks your emotional response system. The hippocampus also plays a role in forming new memories, spatial orientation (think problem solving), and navigation. Hmmm. Apparently a negative emotional hijack causes you to lose your way both figuratively and literally.

Leaders can swing a negative culture around. It starts with role modeling positive behaviors and cutting all gossip and trash talk off at the source. When you hear someone say, “I’m not complaining, but…” it’s time to call people on unacceptable behaviors. In the process, you also have to create a healthy way for people (and the company) to address issues. Finally, require everyone to come with options to resolve the problem, and then give them the power to fix things.

Those small, easy steps in attitude rub off on those around you and rather than having a bunch of complainers on your hands, you develop a motivated, committed team. Those that don’t like the new attitude will leave and share their doom and gloom at another job. That leaves you with an enthusiastic team that has the vision and drive to turn some of those compelling opportunities into deeply satisfying self-fulfilling prophesies.

© 2012. All rights reserved. Original publication date September 26.

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