A positive mindset paves the way for peak performance and career success. It will also leave you feeling happier and more satisfied with your life. This has been well established through decades of research which shows that when people work with a positive mindset, performance on key metrics like productivity, creativity and engagement improves. Neuropsychologists have also found that a positive mindset enables better problem-solving through enabling better use of the pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for higher level, complex thinking tasks. 

There are also countless testimonials from many of the most successful business leaders like Arianna Huffington, Sheryl Sandberg, Richard Brandon, Elon Musk, J.K. Rowling, Peter Jones, Warren Buffet and Jeff Weiner about the power of building and maintaining a positive mindset. 

A positive mindset involves a lot more than simply being upbeat and optimistic, a ‘glass half full’ type of person. There are 4 main elements:

  1. A clear, inspiring purpose – a personal ‘true north’ to guide how you will bring value to others and your organization. Without this, it is extremely difficult to remain positive and motivated.
  2. A high level of self-efficacy – an inner confidence in your abilities and strengths. You must believe you have what it takes to achieve your goals. 
  3. A solutions-focused problem-solving approach – a tendency to look for solutions and opportunities rather than seeing problems as threats and getting consumed by pessimism and anxiety.
  4. A positive view of others – trusting co-workers and others around you, including valuing different perspectives and believing those you work with have positive intent and strengths that can help you succeed.

A growth mindset – being curious and open-minded about learning opportunities and willing to overcome limiting fears to test to upper limits of your potential.  

So what are some of the ways you can strengthen your mindset and become someone who thinks like a winner:

  1. Take responsibility for your mindset

 Don’t allow yourself to become a victim to negative thinking and adverse circumstances otherwise you’ll enter a vicious cycle of low self-confidence, pessimism, helplessness and eventually depression. We can all learn from Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, who pointed out in his bestselling book, Man’s Search for Meaning:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” 

  1. Build your career around your strengths

Your personal strengths are those underlying qualities that naturally energize you, not just skills you have learned or competencies you’re good at. What do you love to do that you could do everyday without getting bored? For example, some managers are energized by being strategic and creative while others are more organized and detail oriented. The areas where your strengths and skills overlap are what we call your “sweet spots”, they are areas where you have opportunity to make the greatest contribution and impact at work. Studies show that when people discover their strengths and find ways to use these more fully in their day-to-day work, they are more likely to enjoy work, perform better and achieve success in their careers.

  1. Challenge your limiting assumptions and beliefs 

Don’t be straightjacketed by your limited voices of doubt and negativity. Recognise and write down the limiting things you say to yourself. Treat these as if they were being said by an external person who wants to make you miserable. Dispute or argue against these points as if you were disputing something someone has said which is unfair or unjustified. Try reframing these negative statements as positive, empowering ones. Write these down and look at them every morning before work and whenever you are experiencing episodes of self-doubt or anxiety. Over time, your negative narratives will be replaced with more positive ones. 

  1. Avoid comparing yourself with others

Always comparing yourself to others (especially those you consider as highly successfully) is counterproductive and will probably only make you miserable.  Happiness and success are highly subjective and often very private so unless you can see inside the person’s brain, you will never know how happy and successfully they really feel. 

Spend time undertaking work and leisure activities that make you feel more fulfilled and genuinely happy rather than activities and interests you see others you admire doing.  

  1. Build high-trust, positive relationships 

People are likeable when they are kind and trustworthy, have a good sense of humour, offer unsolicited support and help, practice regular gratitude and don’t take themselves too seriously. Displaying these behaviours will enable you to initiate and build relationships with co-workers and other people around you who impact your happiness and success. Even if you are by nature a more negative, suspicious, or pessimistic person, spending regular time with people who are happy, resilient and optimistic will eventually result in a positive shift in your mindset, energy and effectiveness.   

  1. Treat failure as a learning opportunity 

If something doesn’t work the first time, try it again and do it differently. Rather than allowing failure to undermine your energy and confidence, treat it as one of your most respected teachers. Remember that almost every successful businessperson fails on multiple occasions. The best stand out because of their ability to dust themselves down and move beyond these setbacks, rather than allowing themselves to be defined by them.  

  1. Notice and be grateful for what’s going well 

Many people keep themselves so busy at work and home that they don’t take time to slow down and notice the good moments and things in life. For example, we often fail to spot our co-workers doing great work or a friend or partner making a special effort on our behalf. Many even fail to notice and celebrate their own learning, progress and professional achievements. They simply move on to the next thing and lose a valuable opportunity to enjoy the viewing points in their overhasty quest to climb the ‘mountain’. By taking time to notice and be grateful for these moments, no matter how small, we will enhance our positive thinking as well as the joy and satisfaction of those around us.

  1. Don’t try to be positive all the time

Negative thoughts are perfectly normal and healthy so don’t push these thoughts and feelings aside when they arise. Emotions like being sad when you are grieving or being angry or disappointed when someone lets you down are usually helpful responses that motivate us to action to improve our work, lives and relationships. So, don’t suppress or deny these feelings without first acknowledging and understanding them. Asking yourself whether they will improve your work, life and relationships is a simple test to decide on how you wish to deal with them.

About the Author

James is a leadership and talent consultant, business psychologist, and executive coach. He has over 25 years’ experience working with leaders, teams, and organizations to optimize their talent, performance, and future success.

Before moving into consulting, James held corporate leadership roles in People and Talent Management in the UK and abroad with companies such as Yahoo! and Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals. Since moving into talent consulting and assessment design, he has supported leaders and teams globally across many sectors and geographies. Clients he has worked with include Allen & Overy, Commvault, Equinor, Graze, LVMH, Facebook, GSK, Hilton, John Lewis, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, NHS, Oracle, Sainsbury's, Swiss Re, Tesco, WSP and Yahoo! James has founded and run several ventures, including Strengthscope®, an international strengths assessment and development business, that he sold in 2018.

James has a Master’s in Organizational Psychology, an MBA, and an Advanced Diploma in Executive Coaching. He is a regular writer and speaker on talent assessment and development, leadership, and the future of work.