Positive Emotions

I am inspired by the work of Barbara Fredrickson. It is instrumental to understanding positive psychology. Her research efforts demonstrate that positive emotions are necessary to openness and learning. Some of these emotions are joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, and love.

Frederickson’s research indicates that these emotions lead to thoughts that are unusual and flexible, integrate differences, and are more efficient. When we increase the flow of positive emotions, we can envision more possibilities. Positive emotions improve our ability to cope with adversity and make us more likely to find positive meaning in what is going on around us, even when negative processes surround us. They facilitate planning and goal setting; they also increase our ability to play, explore, savor experiences, and integrate new views into the self. Thus, positivity helps us make deep personal change and transform our organizations and ourselves. People become more integrated, more capable, and more resilient when things go wrong.

We can access these desirable outcomes by increasing something Frederickson calls the positivity ratio, which is the frequency of positive feelings over a given period divided by the frequency of negative feelings over the same period. When our ratio declines, we tend to spiral downward and become increasingly rigid. We feel overwhelmed and we lose energy, and we slip into the pattern of slow death. When the ratio climbs, we are pulled into upward spirals. We become increasingly open and creative. By monitoring and regulating our positivity ratio, we can determine whether we are moving toward stagnation and death or toward learning, growth, and development. It is a choice that determines our quality of life. Leaders learn to live in positive emotions and to create cultures of positive emotions.

Review

  • What do you do to elevate your emotions in difficult times?
  • What do you do to elevate the emotions of your people?
  • How positive is your organizational culture?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?
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