It’s fall, I’m seated on an airplane headed to my own first hosted industry convention. I suppose I should be exhausted. I have worked almost a month with no days off. I have enjoyed just small pockets of brief family time or an occasional movie. The stakes are high, yet again, on delivering an impressive conference that leaves guests running away with our “vibe” in tow.
Why I am asked would I do a conference? What is your goal, I’ve been repeatedly asked. Well, it’s all part of a master plan to take over the world. That would be a hysterical answer to this question. The truth is, this is a projected part of our overall annual business plan, year one. Perception is 9/10th’s of the law they say. So, we knew right around the one-year mark, a new company would either be lifting and thriving, or dwindling and dying. Ours is the aforementioned, not the latter. Community also comes to mind. Having and getting the support of industry leaders who see us as a friendly competitor. Branding is also the reason to continue to push our brand into new places. Sovereignty, to show we are a viable organization. Sales, to capture or pull over the fence impending sales. Voice, to have people see and hear us as we intend to be seen and heard.
But I digress. I have given thought as I have written my blog this year “The Beckwith Blog” is something that should stand to educate, motivate and inspire my readers. It should be pertinent to the professionals who take the 10 minutes with their coffees or lunch breaks from office cafeterias and park benches to resonate. So today, this month, my contribution is about a recent article I read in Forbes magazine about a study performed by Barbara Fredericks, a professor at North Carolina University. I had been updating a class I wrote a decade ago. I had come across a pattern of behavior that most people would have dismissed, and I believe for a number and variety of reasons. That behavior was around the topic of people who focus on being positive. I had given much thought a decade ago when I began writing my first book, Wise Eyes: See Your Way to Success, that, in fact, I had been someone who hated being around negativity. In fact, it repulsed me in some ways. I felt myself dying in its presence, rising to fight against it … fleeing from it. So, I would later write a workshop, and now today, so many years later, I was being asked to teach this class and it needed updating.
So there I was, searching online for facts that could take this topic out of the realm of “fluff” and into a scientific realm where I could share real data on the effects of this concept on business. In that Google Search, I discovered this article that spelled out a study performed. It would be no surprise whatsoever to me what it represented in the end or found in its test group. I now have a new class on the “Power of Positivity,” but I can now teach to the nay-sayers more effectively.
Barbara Fredericks would take three groups of people and isolate them. She would put one group in a negative atmosphere, what those folks read, how they lived, ate, sleeping patterns, exposure to negative people on a long-term basis, as compared to groups that were put in a positive atmosphere, surrounded by all things positive, healthy food, exercise and positive reading, people and things. Then, the third group, the “control group,” who would be given indifference atmospherically.
Fredericks’ results would be that of a theory she calls the “Broaden and Build” theory. So, in order to arrive at this result, I will take you through the many discoveries of the study. First and foremost, the negative folks who were subjected to all things negative. These folks would, over time, lose their focus, decline in business organization, they would become severely distracted at work, unproductive and even grow sick and would become more susceptive to illness. The control group would have an average level of both bad and good occurring in their lives. But the real discovery was in the group of people who had been immersed in positive environments. Those people came out thriving. But before I break the obvious results I am walking towards down, let me explain a few things from the scientific part of this I found fascinating.
One facet of why people who are experiencing negative emotion were unable to “Broaden and Build” was because they were in a reactionary stance in life. The study would explain that when a person was experiencing sadness, illness, anger, deception, humiliation, bullying or the many other negative emotions that run the gamut of bad feelings, the reaction for a human in these scenarios is always two things; “Fight or Flight!” People experiencing negative emotions either want to run or fight. Made perfect sense to me, but what was mind-blowing to me is that I hadn’t ever, in my 50 years, heard someone explain that to me before. Furthermore, people experiencing those feelings and having a reaction of fight or flight to them are unable to process other emotions during that time. So, there is no room for them to feel happiness or elation, so they stay stuck in a perpetual space of bad feelings which then lends to the diminishment of all other things, like health and job security and overall ability, to cope with everyday life.
People who were in the positive environment were more rested, slept better, healthier and they were thinking and growing, they were creating and inspiring. The act of feeling happy was breeding happiness, so in and of itself, feeling happy was a self-fulfilling prophecy in life. All of this was wonderful and seemed obvious of course, but Fredericks would expand on the “Broaden and Build” theory. The greatest discovery she would come to in the positive group is how it spread.
How happy people truly contributed to the continuance of others being happy, as if the mere elation of a human in a happy state made them want to “Broaden” the effect and “Build” upon it. That not only did they want to spread happiness, but they also wanted to “Broaden and Build” deeper into their lives. They nested at home, did more home improvements, fundamentally and literally building upon their living environments as if to secure their surroundings so they could hold in this place of happiness.
Now, the biggest obstacle for her discovery would be acceptance. People who reviewed the study asked questions like: “How can this be sustained in a world wrought with hate, hurt, illness, divorce, job loss and so on?” And the answer was simple: “We have choices to make and we have things we can’t control”… and obviously we can’t avoid the bad things always, sooner or later, the bad things sneak in and it is unavoidable to get through life without that happening of course.
That said, the sooner we can process the bad feeling and get past it, no matter how hard we had to work to process and move back into a happier state, THAT needs to be our focus. And of course, what responsibility do we take daily to be in a state of happiness or rather to avoid the negativity. Do we pick self-help books or happy ending movies, or who we choose to spend our time with? Do we block out negative people who are taking us down? Do we avoid the news maybe (like in the positive study group) as it only lent to negative feelings at the start of every day? What about our health? What choices do the most successful people make? They are regular exercisers, they tend to choose healthy foods. They make better choices.
So, with all of this in my mind and now part of my new workshop, I realize that we aren’t passengers on a ride in our lives, we are the drivers. Often, we think things “happen” to us and more recently, I have asked myself when bad things happen, “What could I have done differently” to avoid exactly where I am at in this bad thing happening and believe it or not, many times I see the err in my rear view mirror. Yes, bad things happen that we are not to blame for, but where did we not listen to our gut, when did we let evil in, or fall from the path we knew was the best one for us, out of pressure, out of fear, out of exhaustion. These things often send us down knowingly bad paths. Eating poorly out of lack of time, comes to mind for example. “I had no time to make the healthy dinner, so I picked up take out.” But could take out have been healthy if we made a different choice still for the sake of time?
Yes, being positive and being in a state to “Build and Broaden” comes with many choices that every day, we need to steer the course for. I am now in the driver’s seat, and today, as I head off for this life-changing moment, I realize more than ever I am steering the course in the right direction and for all that I can control, I am making better decisions for myself. I am happier as a result and there is no question I am “Building and Broadening” and spreading my happiness all around me.
I have had so many people in my life and career try to push me down the negative path and sometimes unknowingly, I’ve followed only to find myself deeply down a dead-end road that is making withdrawals from my life every single day. I am a living testament you can change course. You can change the direction of your life and business. You can steer yourself and people impacted by you towards happiness.
It is no longer a theory, it’s a fact that the “Undeniable discovered path to success” is out there, but the question for all of us is “Will we accept responsibility for placing ourselves on that path?”
Christine Beckwith is a 30-year mortgage industry veteran who has broken many glass ceilings and has blazed a trail for many female professionals to come. Christine is currently president and chief operating officer of 20/20 Vision for Success Coaching and Consulting, a decorated, sought after and award-winning leader. Christine may be reached by e-mail at [email protected].
This article originally ran in the October 2019 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine.