The Power of Positive

April 28, 2009 Leave a comment

I have been boning up on systems theory and thinking because of an upcoming presentation that I will be delivering and because I am so interested in applying its wisdom to our own organization.. Oh to find the trim tab!!!!!

So, I am seeing everything through the systems lens when I stumble across this article on positive emotions and there it is in black and white with systems sprinkles to go. See below!

As background: Two distinct psychological states are positive emotions which are triggered by our interpretation of our current circumstances and pleasure which is what we get when we give the body what it needs right now!! Positive emotions tell us what we need emotionally, what our future selves might need. They help us broaden our minds and build our resources…they have that go-forward quality.

Happiness is the overall outcome of many positive emotions which are more narrow, more day to day, moment to moment. It’s not about being happy in general but focusing on being positive day to day which ends up building up our resources so that we can become the best version of ourselves.

It’s one thing for individuals to build their resilience through focusing in the day to day on their strengths and assets, practicing kindness, expressing gratitude, staying in the moment but how does this work in groups?

In a study of 60 work teams conducted by mathematician Marcial Losada it was shown that the really high performing teams had a ratio of 6:1 positive to negative statements where as the low-performing teams had ratios of less that one to one i.e. more than half of what was said was negative. The high performers had an even balance between asking questions and advocating for their own point of view and an equal measure of focusing outward and focusing within the group. The low-performers were essentially not listening and simply waiting for their turn to talk.

He then looked at the behavioral data and wrote algebraic equations that related the positive and negative behaviors to each other and discovered that these equations matched the very famous equations called the Lorenz system. happiness-equationFamiliar to us from our reading on systems, Edward Lorenz is the scientist who identified the famous “butterfly effect” the idea of an attractor…an identifiable pattern or hidden coherence that appears in all that is incoherent. Some attractors are strong and some are weak. In this case Losada discovers that underneath the dynamics of the high-performing team was a “complex chaotic attractor” which produces unpredictable or novel outcomes. Underneath the structure of the low-performing teams was a “fixed pint attractor” that caused the team to spiral to a dead end.

And, p.s. there is research that shows that when married couples are in a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative emotions they are in a solid relationship.

It seems that no matter what corner one turns…you come up against the same wise messages be still, be focused, be grateful and breathe.

No Comments

  • Curtis says:

    You are so right about the importance of melancholy and sadness as being so very necessary as the yeast for creativity and a full experience and I suppose neither of which are actually negative.

    And, I can see how we could so easily confuse the idea of being positive as eliminating the richness of all of our complex emotions rather than thinking that ” positive emotions are triggered by our interpretation of our current circumstances, they tell us what we need”. I’m thinking that even in the depths of melancholy or deep grief and sadness that our interpretation of these emotions is what creates our experience of them as part of being fully alive.

  • Andria Winther says:

    It’s funny, I just realized what I don’t like about the format of blogs….one must write a response– and the way to engage in “dialogue” is by writing back and forth. No “talking” no wildly expressive hand gestures, hard to be animated, really, and no interpretive dance, which pretty much knocks me out of the game!

    That said, I’ll push myself, but I’m not happy about it. I’m not “negative” about it mind you, it’s just that this format just doesn’t wind my clock…..

    I’m all for the power of the positive, with a big AND. I think of the artists who have a meloncholic archetype and wonderous creations come from the depths and the angst. With so much positive are we missing out on the advantage of agitation which may be perceived as negative, yet can be critical yeast?

  • Gibran says:

    thanks so much Marianne for sharing what you are learning. Your post made me think of Elizabeth Gilbert in “Eat Pray Love,” where she has this beautiful section on the fact that happiness is not like the weather, something that comes and goes by chance, but it is something we actually work on. There is a mind training aspect of this, a discipline of shifting outlooks from negative to positive while remaining grounded in the experience of what actually is.

    Then you bring in systems and it starts to get really fun – what is the equivalent of “mind training” for a team? From your post, it seems like at least one aspect of it is to give up the quest for permanence and come togethter in what is dynamic.

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