David Penglase – Conferences Wrongly Pushing Positivity
By David Penglase
Before you hire a motivational guru to boost audience positivity levels at your next conference, you might want to think again.
Napoleon Hill’s landmark book Think and Grow Rich was first published way back in 1960. Ever since then, self-help authors and motivational speakers have been extolling the benefits of having a positive mental attitude.
In more recent times, scientific researchers in the field of applied positive psychology have been investigating what it really takes to experience optimal human functioning.
Supporting the self-help stance on the power of positive thinking is positive psychology researcher Barbara Fredickson’s (2009) theory that positivity broadens and builds our capacity to flourish in life.
Fredrickson’s research suggests that when we experience positivity, the types of feelings and emotions we also experience include: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and love.
Fredrickson’s research also suggests that positivity can ‘transform your future’ through this broadening of our minds which builds our resources (skills, knowledge and attributes) to create a future where we can flourish.
However, other researchers (Oettingen and Mayer, 2002) warn that positivity isn’t always going to be our best approach. These researchers have found that it depends on what our positivity is based on can make all the difference.
Fantasy v Expectation:
Their research uncovered two sources of positivity when it comes to thinking about the future: Fantasies and Expectations.
The difference is important, and it certainly passes the ‘logical’ test for me.
• Positivity based on fantasising about what might occur in the future is nothing other than hope or wishful thinking.
• Positivity based on expectations about what might occur in the future, is more pragmatically formed through considering previous experience, effort and results.
Here’s the paradox and where their research findings have serious implications for your next conference audiences’ potential for goal achievement in their professional and personal lives.
It seems if we adopt a positive mental attitude about the future, based on fantasising about what might be, we will certainly get a boost of positive emotion. However, that boost of positive feeling(s) in the present-time, may actually cause us to remain with just hoping things will turn out positive, rather than investing the necessary effort and resources to increase our chances of success.
Law of Attraction Myth Busted!
This scientifically outlines the problem with people buying into the self-help wonder of the so-called ‘law of attraction’ (if you want something enough and just think positively about it, it will result in you experiencing it). Myth Busted!
The difference in thinking positively about the future based on an expectation of what will happen, is a recognition and commitment to the effort or intentional actions that will be required to succeed.
In summary, this means positive thinking alone isn’t enough… but you already knew that didn’t you! So just be careful who you are letting near your conference audiences’ minds.
While science validates that positive thinking based on expectation trumps positive thinking based on fantasy, the reality is, it’s effort and intentional action that will increase your audience members’ capacity to flourish in their professional and personal life.
“As the keynote speaker at our Franchise Conference, David was engaging, motivational and entertaining. The feedback we received was more than positive and we were impressed with how his presentation was tailored to our personal needs.” -- SHARYN HOPKINS, NETWORK PERFORMANCE COORDINATOR, L.J. HOOKER