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3 Positive Psychology Traits that Fuel Success (and a Happier Life)

think positive mindset with woman watering flowers on head

As a broadcaster for CBS News, Michelle Gielan learned first-hand that when we are bombarded with problems – without a focus on solutions – we can start to believe our behavior doesn’t matter.


But then she left journalism to study positive psychology: the scientific study of happiness and human potential. And what she discovered is scientific proof of the alternative.


In her words: “When we cultivate a more positive and optimistic mindset when we train our brain to see the world through that lens, it benefits us in terms of health, educational and business outcomes.”


Specifically, with a more positive mindset, studies show people are 31 percent more productive, three times more creative, and 40 percent more likely to receive a promotion, says Gielan, now a psychologist and best-selling author of Broadcasting Happiness.

So, what are the core predictors of success? Gielan says these are the three elements of a “success mindset:”



“Work optimism is the expectation of good things and the belief that our behavior matters, especially in the face of challenges.


Optimism doesn’t stop reality from impinging upon us. We’re talking about rational optimism. It’s taking a realistic assessment of the present moment while maintaining a belief that our behavior matters, especially when facing challenges.


We’ve worked with folks who have recently lost their jobs, and you can quickly pick out the optimist and the pessimist in the room. The optimist jumps on LinkedIn, updates their resume, reaches out to former colleagues, and does all those behaviors that help you land a new job.


The pessimist–because they don’t necessarily expect good things to happen–still get around to those behaviors. But it often takes them a lot longer, and then the results are impacted.”


Positive Engagement

“Positive engagement is your story about stress. When a stressful event hits, does your brain go into fight or flight, or do you consider this event a challenge?


We worked with stressed-out managers a handful of years ago. And in partnership with Yale, we did a study where we split these managers into two groups. In the first group, we put them through typical stress management training.


With the experimental group, we taught them how to see, own, and use stress. We also discussed the advantages: Stress can improve your memory, mental cognition, agility, and energy levels.


Four months later, we tested them and found that the experimental group reported a 23 percent drop in stress-related symptoms like headaches, backaches, and fatigue.”


Support Provision

“When we were trying to find what predicts your long-term successes, we asked questions like, ‘Do you have all the necessary resources? Do you have all the team members you need to support your work? Are you getting to go to events like this to do professional development? Are you being supported by your organization and the people around you?’


And while the answers to those questions are somewhat predictive of your long-term success, significantly more predictive is if we flip the questions around: ‘If a colleague is falling behind on their work, how likely are you to step in and help out?’ ‘If someone needs a listening ear, how likely are you to say, ‘Hey, let’s grab a cup of coffee or a virtual chat to talk about it.’?


The people who score in the top quartile of that particular metric are 40 percent more likely to receive a promotion over the next year than the people in the lowest quartile. So, it’s scientific proof that what you give is what you get.”

Michelle GileanTo learn more about developing a positive mindset, read Michelle Gilean’s research-backed tips to help you develop a positive mindset.

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