Robin Williams on Positivity

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Yesterday we lost a great comedian, actor, and humanitarian. Robin Williams was a staple on TV and movies for over 30 years. While the news is centering on the darkness that overcame him, it’s important to focus on what drew us to Robin and kept our attention – his positivity.

If you’ve ever seen an interview or standup special with Robin, his energy was tantamount to none. Robin bounced around the stage with quick one liners, numerous dialects, and a sharp wit. Even when talking about his problems, Robin always maintained an upbeat (and offbeat) twist.

As leaders, the impact of positivity cannot be downplayed. According to a TEDTalk by Dr. Shawn Achor, CEO of Good Think Inc and author of The Happiness Advantage,

… your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, what we’ve found is that every single business outcome improves.

Positivity may feel good but that, in itself, does not sell its usefulness in the business world. So, what if you knew that a brain at positive is 31% more productive than a brain at negative or neutral and 37% better at sales? Would these numbers motivate you to make positivity an integral part of your workplace culture?

Positivity cannot be pushed onto others. While we can create an environment that supports it, ultimately it falls on the individual to affirm a positive outlook on their perception of the world. Thankfully, Dr, Achor’s research shows that we can train our brains to become more positive. This painless process includes completing all of the items below for 21 consecutive days:

  • Gratitudes – write three new things each day that they’re grateful for
  • Journaling – write one positive experience you’ve had in the past 24 hours
  • Exercise – do some kind of physical activity for thirty minutes
  • Meditation – sit in a quiet place and take deep breathes as you consider the positive events of the day
  • Acts of kindness – write one positive email praising or thanking someone

If you can diligently follow through on these items, your brain will begin to rewire itself. You will comprehend and process information quicker, longer, and in ways that will allow you to better utilize it in the future. If it works for you, it may become a beneficial initiative for your team.

This may not have been able to help Robin; his private persona had much more grievous demons. Let’s try to incorporate more of his public persona in our daily practices. Robin radiated positivity. He was a beacon of light to those who knew him and all of us who have enjoyed his work. We may not be able to display it like him, but there’s no reason to set the bar so high. What matters is that you do something to encourage positivity in yourself and those around you.

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