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Self Development

The Successful Optimist

Why the language you use makes a difference.

Scott Halford

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Glass half-empty or half-full? Does it really matter? As it turns out, it does matter. Those who explain things one way are better salespeople, have less depression and are more motivated than those who see things the opposite way. It’s about a thing called your explanatory style, and Dr Martin Seligman has conducted more than 600 studies that prove that optimistic explanations get you the good stuff, while pessimistic ones will often end exactly how you predict them – badly.

Here are a few things essential to understanding the science around explanatory style:

1. Optimists make more money and are more loyal.
In a study with life insurance agents, Seligman found that the most optimistic salespeople sold 88% more than the most pessimistic ones. Optimism is infectious

2. The optimist with high reality testing is a gold mine.
Optimism is not about fooling yourself and being all rosy. In fact, to be a successful optimist, you must not only have an accurate barometer on reality, but be able to see other options to that reality. If you are an optimist based in realism, you are statistically more likely to make more money.

3. Pessimists are more accurate about reality than optimists.
Optimists think that there are more options open to them when bad things happen. So they try different things in order to get out of a jam. Serious pessimists usually give up once they think the outcome is foretold.

4. There is nothing wrong with being a pessimist.
If your job requires high accuracy, pessimism may actually benefit you. Look out for what I explain in the next bullet before you succumb to pessimism, though.

5. Pessimists are more likely to become depressed than their optimistic counterparts.
If an optimist loses a job, it will take, on average, four to six weeks to get back into the hunt. If a pessimist loses a job, it can take three to six months before emerging to see the light.

6. Optimists keep moving forward because they believe there are options.
Pessimists don’t usually persist in the face of setbacks and can be prone to inertia. When salespeople are rejected again and again, it is the optimist who makes another phone call while the pessimist gives up.

The Problem

Becoming an optimist rather than a pessimist is simple to understand but can be difficult to execute because you’ve been practicing your explanatory style for at least a few decades now. It’s time to get over that and get more out of life and work. When bad events happen, pessimists tend to explain the calamity as:

  • Permanent. Behind on earnings: “We’re never going to hit our numbers.” There is no point in problem-solving at this point, since the worst is expected.
  • Pervasive. Mad at your accountant: “Accountants are such losers.” This is the tendency to explain all people or things in a category as bad if only one is bad.

The Fix

  • A little tweak in explanatory style when bad things happen and you become an optimist: temporary. Behind on earnings: “This is a bad quarter, but next quarter we have a few things in the pipeline to make up for it.” The optimist looks for options when things are bad, making the situation a temporary negative. This keeps them and others motivated.
  • Specific. Mad at your accountant: “I need to get a new accountant. This one’s not working out.” Optimists are specific about who or what is bad, and then they go find a good one.

In short, you’re more pessimistic if, when something negative happens, you believe that there are no other options (permanence) or that since there is one rotten apple, all of them are rotten (pervasiveness).

It doesn’t take much to see that a pessimist can get depressed in a big hurry with that kind of explanatory style. You can also see how it probably leads to inertia. The opposite explanation style is found in optimists and pessimists when good events happen. Pessimists think that if something good happens, it’s temporary, explaining that the stars aligned perfectly and probably won’t do so again in our lifetime.

On the other hand, optimists are more permanent when explaining good events. They believe that good happens because they have the right ingredients to create that positive event every time. Pessimists are specific about explaining the reason for good events, and when bad things occur, they believe it is pervasive. It is a choice you get to make. If you don’t think you have a choice, you’re exactly right. Enjoy the misery of it all.

Scott Halford, CSP is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer and an engaging presenter. His expansive knowledge in the area of achievement psychology, which includes brain-based behavioral science, emotional intelligence, critical thinking and the principles of influence add richness and depth to his programs.

Self Development

10 Ways To Develop A Success-Oriented Mindset

Confidence empowered entrepreneurs to take decisive action, and decisive action is what builds confidence.

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Take a minute to imagine an entrepreneur you deeply respect. Think of that person at the start of his or her career, working on a product or service that will eventually make it big. Regardless of whom you’ve chosen, chances are the entrepreneur in question had a success-oriented mindset from the outset.

Entrepreneurs who lack confidence or who have a pessimistic mindset will usually fail. It’s hard to motivate people to invest money in a new idea or work for a fledgling company if the entrepreneur behind it lacks confidence. But having a successful mindset isn’t just helpful for those who are launching a new venture. It can also help readers from all walks of life to make smarter decisions that result in better personal or business outcomes.

Here are 10 strategies that can help you develop a winning mindset.

1. Put yourself in challenging new situations

You gain confidence by overcoming challenges, but when you fail to put yourself in challenging new situations because you assume the outcome won’t be positive, you will be unable to grow.

Instead, develop a list of exciting challenges you’re interested in overcoming. They could include exploring a foreign city on your own or enrolling in a challenging business course at your local university. Even volunteering to help with a new project at the office can provide a challenging situation that will foster growth.

Whatever the challenge you select, be sure it is something that interests you; otherwise, it may be difficult to stay focused along the way.

2. Be open to finding a mentor

Mentorship is often discussed with regard to self-improvement and business success. But many professionals assume that finding a mentor is as simple as asking a senior professional for help.

However, as Sheryl Sandberg argues in the Harvard Business Review, finding a mentorship doesn’t work that way. Instead, professionals need to put themselves in situations where they can build real relationships with senior business leaders.

In time, after an existing relationship has formed, it may be appropriate to ask a senior professional for mentorship. That means readers will need to make themselves available to build professional relationships before they can secure a mentor who can help them grow.

3. Think of failure as a learning opportunity

failureFailure is an outstanding learning opportunity. If you find yourself succeeding frequently, it may be a sign that you aren’t challenging yourself enough.

Develop a mindset that views failure as an experience to learn from. By reframing failure, you’ll find it is easier to take risks. Adopting this mindset will leave you less prone to anxiety, which is key to creating a winning attitude.

4. Keep a folder of your proudest moments

While it’s important to focus on the present and future instead of the past, maintaining a collection of moments you’re proud of can serve as a helpful reminder when you’re feeling down. By periodically reviewing past successes, you may find inspiration for future projects. At the very least, you can use past successes as a way to build long-term confidence.

5. Surround yourself with top talent

Environment plays a significant role in creating our mindsets. After all, we’re social creatures and are influenced by those around us. Surround yourself with talented individuals who can teach you new things and who can encourage you to grow personally and professionally.

If you’re involved in the hiring process at your organisation, look for prospective employees who are better or smarter than you. This will help create an environment that can consistently encourage you to form a successful mindset.

6. Find time to disconnect from stressors

The average American works more hours per week than his or her counterparts in other developed countries. Furthermore, the average number of hours worked has been steadily growing since the 1980s. Unfortunately, work-related stress has been creeping up at the same time.

Readers should find time to disconnect from work-related stress that can make it difficult to adopt a success-oriented mindset. Traveling can be a good way to disconnect, as can adopting a daily meditation practice.

7. Develop a simple morning routine

morning-routineAccording to lifestyle gurus like Tim Ferriss, we are shaped by our morning routines. That means it’s important for readers interested in developing a new mindset to develop new habits as well.

Since your morning has the power to make or break your entire day, consider creating a simple morning routine that positions you to have a successful day.

For example, waking up earlier than normal can give you time to focus on yourself in ways that might have otherwise been impossible. With the extra time you can go to the gym or develop a meditation practice to reduce stress, as mentioned above.

8. Set time-bound and achievable personal goals

More than 90 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail. If you’re serious about changing your mindset, you should take a different approach to goal setting. Instead of relying on a New Year’s resolution, create time-bound goals that you know are achievable from the outset. Approaching goal setting from this angle will help to build your confidence, which in turn will reshape your thinking.

9. Listen to your instincts

Part of developing a winning mindset is learning to trust your instincts. According to the Harvard Business Review, we are usually capable of making smart decisions when we rely on our gut instincts.

Confidence in your instincts is a critical component of business success. While it’s usually ideal to rely on research and data to make decisions, there are a variety of scenarios in when empirical evidence is unavailable or inconclusive. In these situations, people with a winning mindset are comfortable making decisions with their gut. This serves them well in the long run.

10. Avoid stagnation

If you feel as though you aren’t learning new things in your personal or professional life, it’s time to change it up. Avoid stagnation in order to continue to grow. This will help you to face new challenges and overcome new obstacles.

Developing a successful mindset can take time. To get started, focus on learning new skills and putting yourself in new situations. By overcoming adversity, you’ll begin to develop faith in yourself.

Establish morning routines and build a network of talented colleagues and mentors in order to avoid stagnation and achieve moments you can be proud of.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Self Development

The Anatomy Of Peak Performance

Besides paying lip service to “positive thinking” what is the reality behind hard work and the remuneration for it?

Dirk Coetsee

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“The quality of your life is dependent upon the quality of the questions that you ask”

– Tony Robbins

Positive thinking clichés

We all have heard repetitive clichés emanating from the mouths of our parents, teachers, friends and family such as:

  • “Just work hard and you shall be rewarded”
  • “What you sow you shall reap”
  • “Think positively and all will be better”
  • “Do not worry tomorrow will be a better day”

Yet most family members and friends will complain that they work hard but that, in their minds, they are overworked and under paid. Besides paying lip service to “positive thinking” what is the reality behind hard work and the remuneration for it?

Related: Business Leadership: Leading A Culturally Diverse Business Team

The purpose of hard work

“Whatsoever your deepest driving desire is, so shall your thoughts be, as your thoughts are, so shall your deeds be, and your deeds shall echo in all eternity” – Upanishads

“As a man thinketh so is he.” – Proverbs

The only real reason for hard work is to build perseverance and “strengthen your spine” because it is very hard to give up on a cause if you have sincerely put in a lot of hard work. However take the time to consider that when you really love what you do and you live your purpose, long hours do not feel so long and hard work can even be energising as opposed to making you tired all the time. When you are driven by purpose and love what you do there is less stress involved within your efforts and better performance will result.

Of the upmost importance is the quality of the work that you put in versus the amount of hours spent doing your work. A razor sharp focus on the activities that serves your business purpose and vision which in turn increases profits is a requirement of smart work.

The Pareto principle applies here:

On average team members spend only 20% of their time on the activities that really serves the business purpose and vision and brings in the desired business results and 80% on activities that does not fully support business results or only to a very small degree. Smart and quality work is therefore ensuring a razor sharp focus and spending 80% of your time on the 20% of the activities that really drives business results.

“The quality of your life is dependant on the quality of the questions that you ask”
– Tony Robbins

How do I identify the twenty percent of the activities that bring in the profits and serves our collective purpose? Now, that is already a better quality question than for example: “Why am I so tired? Why am I so de-motivated? When you ask high quality questions you are already starting to train your brain to come up with better quality answers that will lead up to better quality actions, that is if the reader is brave enough to venture outside of the self-imposed boundaries of his or her own comfort zone.

The following table clearly highlights the difference between high and low quality questions. High quality questions that is answered and acted upon consistently leads to peak performance and lowered stress levels.

Related: Leadership: The Principle Of Authenticity

Low quality questions often leads to excuses that are void of solution driven thinking and increased stress levels:

High quality question. (Peak performers should ask) Low quality question. (That generally leads to poor performance)
What creative solutions can we come up with in order to generate more leads from our marketing campaigns? Why is it so difficult to get leads?
Which accurate metric system can we put in place in order to measure all activities that will reveal which ones drive the most profit? Why am I so overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done?
What type of candidate with which type of characteristics do we need to serve our collective purpose? Why is it so hard to find the right person?
How can we align all our processes and systems and remove waste (waste of time and waste of effort) to deliver better results? I am so tired and demotivated, why is this not working?


The three pillars of peak performance in business and any area of life

1. A laser focus on Purpose

Being purpose driven and doing what you love is a key factor in producing the desired results and delivering a great performance consistently. Then people start acting out of own accord and no longer have to be asked to do their work.

2. People skills

Sincerely care for people. Study and learn until you know how to speak to different personality types and respect different world views in order to get the best out of each individual. Inspire people to want to do what they sincerely love instead of constantly telling them what to do. Ask high quality questions to your team members to help them to train their brains to come up with high quality answers and solutions. Study human behaviour to understand your clients better and improve upon your people skills in order to enhance your customers’ experience of your product and service.

3. Technical skills

A high level of product knowledge, sales skills, and knowledge of all business processes and systems is of course a requirement of sustainable success. Technical skills only however becomes a potent driver of sought after business results when combined with highly developed people skills.

A peak performance equation

Carefully selecting from the key points of this article the following “peak performance” equation is created:

Being Purpose driven x Asking high quality questions x taking immediate action (no procrastination) x developing to a high level of people skills x developing to a high level of technical skill x Removal of waste (Time wasters and a waste of effort)  = Peak performance.


**** Multiplication is used within this equation to portray the fact that all elements within this equation is necessary to create a peak performance environment. Therefore if one element equates to zero the answer is zero, and will not lead to a peak performance environment.

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Self Development

You Need This One Trait To Succeed In Reaching Your Goals

In education, we know how to measure IQ, but what if doing well in school and in life depends on much more than your ability to learn quickly and easily?

Nadine Todd

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When Angela Duckworth started teaching Grade 7 maths, she realised that IQ was not a reliable predictor of who would be her best and worst students. In fact, some of her strongest performers did not have stratospheric IQ scores. Equally, some of her smartest kids weren’t doing so well. Duckworth was convinced that each of her students could learn the material if they worked hard and long enough.

After several years of teaching, she came to the conclusion that a much better understanding of students and learning is required from a motivational and psychological perspective. In education, we know how to measure IQ, but what if doing well in school and in life depends on much more than your ability to learn quickly and easily?

Identifying the success factor

So, Duckworth left the classroom and went to graduate school to become a psychologist. She started studying kids and adults in all kinds of super challenging settings, and in every study her question was, who is successful here and why? Her research team went to West Point Military Academy and tried to predict which cadets would stay in military training and which would drop out. They went to the National Spelling Bee and tried to predict which children would advance furthest in competition.

Related: Successful People Always Chase the Impossible – Here’s Why

They studied rookie teachers working in tough neighbourhoods, asking which teachers were still going to be there by the end of the school year, and who would be the most effective at improving their students’ learning outcomes. They partnered with private companies, asking, which of their sales people would keep their jobs? And who would earn the most money?

In all those different contexts, one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success, and it wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t IQ. It was grit.

What is grit?

Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

“To me, the most shocking thing about grit is how little we know, how little science knows, about building it,” says Duckworth. “I do know that talent doesn’t make you gritty. Our data show that many talented individuals do not follow through on their commitments and that grit is usually unrelated or even inversely related to measures of talent.

“So far, the best idea I’ve heard about building grit in kids is something called ‘growth mindset’. This is an idea developed at Stanford University by Carol Dweck, and it is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed, that it can change with your effort. Dr. Dweck has shown that when kids read and learn about the brain and how it changes and grows in response to challenge, they’re more likely to persevere when they fail, because they don’t believe that failure is permanent.”

Angela Lee Duckworth is based at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studies concepts such as self-control and grit to determine how they might predict academic and professional success.

Related: Why Grit Is The True Determining Factor Of Success

Learning to Win

“You cannot win the game by simply participating.

You cannot win the game by simply showing up.

You cannot win the game when you are obsessed with what others are doing.

You cannot win the game by simply reading the instructions.

But here’s the thing…

Participating counts. Showing up counts. An awareness of what others are doing counts.

Reading the instructions counts. In isolation our actions mean little. But when you weave them all together, something magical happens. Winners weave.” — Erik Kruger (Personal Development & Leadership Coach and Speaker)

Visit: erikkruger.com

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