My five positive habits

Posted by on aug 3, 2016 in Article, Project guidance


Inspired by my friend and colleague Merel Segers I decided to share my five positive habits. Merel started publishing #positivenews through her Linkedin profile, to counterbalance the negativity of the news. To overcome being overstrung by negative stimuli I apply five positive habits in my daily life. Read on and select one new habit to start with today.

Habit #1: Replace ‘have to’ with ‘want to’
Have you noticed? A lot of people, including maybe you, use the phrases: “I have to”, “I must” or “I should”. Not a very positive way to look at the things you are doing – as if you do not have a free will. I started replacing these phrases with “I want”, “I like” or an active form of a verb. It really empowers you and makes you realise want you actually want (and don’t want).

So how does it work? Well, just start correcting yourself! Here a few examples:

“I must finish this report today”
Positive alternative: “I want to finish this report today”

“I have to go to that meeting”
Positive alternative: “I would like to join the 3pm meeting”

“I should go to bed early”
Positive alternative: “Tonight, I’m going to bed early”

Habit #2: Start with a compliment
Start and finish your day with a compliment to yourself and make sure to start and finish each encounter with someone else with a compliment as well. Need some inspiration? Here are 100 examples you can use straight away.

Habit #3: Focus on good stuff
Scientifically proven or not, there seems to be something like a ‘negativity bias’: the hunger to hear and remember bad news. The good thing is: you can reprogram your brain! How? After a meeting, conversation, tv show, movie, article, etc. you think back and say out loud (to yourself or someone else) at least one good thing. So next time a colleague asks you how your meeting went, instead of saying: “It was a waste of my time”, you say something like: “It was good to get an update on project X” or “I liked the opportunity to catch up with Y”.

Habit #4: Start giving feedforward
Never heard of feedforward? Well, it’s the positive opposite of feedback. Feedback is defined as ‘information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.’ In the case of feedback, the recipient is responsible for thinking how the input can be used for improvement. In the case of feedforward, that responsibility lies with the sender – the one giving input. I use the cupcake analogy:

  • Cream: First focus on the good stuff, give a compliment and say what was good.
  • Cake: Then you mention what you did not like so much or what needs improvement.
  • Cup: Finally you give a concrete suggestion to actually make the needed change.

Don’t forget, give feedforward with a smile on your face and make sure the list of good stuff is longer than the list of improvements!

Cupcake Feedforward technique

Habit #5: Stop with news and social media
To reduce the amount of negative stimuli in my day I decided to stop with news and two of three of my social media networks about six years ago. Not only did I reduce my daily dosage of ‘bad news’, I also got more free space in my brain to actually read a book, listen to interesting ideas on TED or write articles. Blocking news entirely is a bit radical, but you could try to significantly reduce the amount of time and moments you spend on news and social media.

Changing habits
Being positive is not rocket science. My five habits are actually rather obvious. But the trick lies in training yourself in being consistent in a positive attitude. To turn it into a habit. Changing habits is not easy but these two tips help:

  1. Try to integrate the new habit in your existing daily routines. So, if you brush your teeth every morning make sure to give yourself a compliment and a fresh smile when you finish.
  2. Don’t try to do everything at once. Choose one new habit and wait with a second one until you integrated the first in your routine.

If you want to learn more about making changes that stick? I really enjoyed the
book ‘Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard’ by Chip and Dan Heath.