Leadership for a Lifetime: Positivity

It’s been said you will become the average of the three to five people with whom you spend the most time. Can you see it?  Positive, motivated people challenge and inspire us to be our best.  Negative, unmotivated people can drag us down and reinforce a mindset of mediocrity.

Great leaders surround themselves with positive influences and steer clear of the negative ones. This principle is not only true for relationships; it applies to any influence we take in, such as music, TV, movies, Internet, etc. We become the sum of our input—which is why positivity should be the reigning theme of what we expose ourselves to.

There are few places in the life of a young person where this plays out more importantly than the relationship choices they make after high school, when they leave their comfortable well-known environment for a new one (e.g., college, tech. school, military, gap year). It’s arguably their biggest test.

In the transition from high school to college, for example, they will go from “big fish in small pond” to “small fish in big pond” where no one (including the professors) knows them. They’ll be in a sea of strangers. This is one of the biggest reasons why many people never take the plunge to move from the comfort and security of home/hometown.  Yes, it’s intimidating. Yes, it’s worth it!

When I (Arlyn) was a young adult, I lived overseas for a few years when my husband and I were newlyweds and he was in the military. This was before the Internet and inexpensive phone services were available. I could afford to talk to my parents and friends only briefly and infrequently. I lived in a community where I couldn’t speak the language or even read the street signs!

There were other young adults in my situation, and a number of them responded with negativity and victimization—poor me—and surrounded themselves with others who felt the same. Obviously, their overseas experience was very different than mine. I took university classes, worked at a local school teaching English, volunteered, learned to speak the language, and got to know my neighbors (even though we barely understood each other!).

 

The results? Those who chose negativity were either miserable or short-lived in their overseas experience, while I had a blast. What made the difference? I believe it was the power of positivity.

Loneliness can be one of the biggest de-railers post-high school (after one’s support system is distant and scattered), and can cause depression or compel a person to rush into unhealthy social situations. When this happens, we need to be patient and remember that it took a while to make the great friends we already have. After all, true love and friendship take time and timing!

Here’s how to apply the principle of “positivity” to new situations:

Tip #1: Find people who share your values and interests. (It pays to make a list of your non-negotiable values in a friend before you enter your new environment.) Join a group, club, or team (make a big place small). Proactively seek out a small community where you’ll feel at home.

Tip #2: Steer clear of destructive/complaining/melancholy/unmotivated people, as well as those who don’t respect your values. Recognize not everyone is meant to be your friend. When you do have someone like this in your life, it’s not your job to cheer them up, make them happy, or provide positivity for them (this can lead to a dysfunctional, co-dependent relationship).

Do you know any young people in this position—or getting ready to be? Maybe they are high school seniors getting ready to “launch,” new college students, or others who have moved away to take their first job in another city. Maybe they’ve joined the military and are in their first duty station away from home.

Whatever the case, encourage them not to get sidetracked by loneliness—and to choose the power of positivity. It pays to choose wisely!

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