While researching global trends for strategic planning sessions, I discovered a dismal communication pattern in our society. Much like the daily news reported on television and in newspapers, 99% of what we hear and read is negative. As an example, most TV stations have taken to ending their news broadcast with one positive event while the remaining 29 minutes are bad, sad or fearful.
When you look for the bad in mankind expect-
ing to find it, you surely will. Eleanor H. Porter, Pollyanna, 1913.
For most of us alive on this planet, bad, sad and fearful do not depict our daily lives. As Porter wrote, when we look for the bad, we will find it. What interests me (and is also true) is the opposite — when we look for the good, we find it. The premise of Porter’s book, Pollyanna, depicts good fortune follows from an attitude of optimism wherein we look for something to be glad about in every circumstance, no matter what.
True optimism sees the silver lining present in every event.
If you regularly read this blog, you already know my mission is to transform bad, sad and fear into joy. Let me say, this is not a mission where we ignore the issues and challenges in life, but rather recognize them as symptoms signaling where we can create new learning and growth. This requires a shift in perspective from seeing and labeling challenging events as problematic weaknesses or threats which, by the way, is half the traditional SWOT formula (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) used in most strategic planning processes.
Where our attention goes, our energy flows.
When we focus our attention during strategy sessions on problem solving around what we want less of — the bad, sad and fearful — we inhibit intuition, insight and creativity. There is a visceral heaviness and deflation in the room as though someone let the air out of a tire. Peoples’ energy and enthusiasm for such work depletes rapidly because they intuitively know they are pushing a rock up hill.
So how do we stay “in the flow” of what feels natural and energizing? We focus on what we want to create more of by reframing problems into opportunities. For example, in a corporation where staff turnover is high and costly, instead of trying to “fix this problem” by analyzing its reasons, we analyze and leverage the elements that support staff retention (what we want to create more of). Pollyanna called this tactic playing the “Glad Game.”
Let’s try this out on the sad, bad, fearful statistics that emerged from my global trends research for 2013. Forbes speculates on the following global threats regarding world population —
- a population increase from 6.8 to 9.2 billion by 2050 with most growth occurring in developing nations
- 16% of the world’s adults are illiterate
- 69-122 million 20th C war fatalities with intelligence services warning of even greater fatalities due to a less secure 21st C
- 200 million/year affected by natural disasters due to crowded cities, poor urban planning, destruction of natural buffers, climate change.
If we play the Glad Game while considering these statistics, what inherent opportunities can you see as silver linings in each?
Send me your thoughts and I will share our own brainstormed list of optimistic possibilities with you.