In this sixth of the Lessons from Teaching series, CareerActually contributor Peter Luscombe highlights the power of positivity in our working lives.

Like anyone, I have a propensity at times to see what isn’t working the way I want instead of what is right there and then, is on track and working well. As a student teacher I learned much on teaching rounds. Lessons from then I carried into my career. I still recall who gave me lasting advice that saw me through good times and bad. A principle piece of advice was:

 A word of praise outweighs any criticism. Say what is positive before you say what needs to be improved.

When I was in a positive mind-set in the classroom, I was able to avoid issues and even conflict between myself and students. I used to praise what was happening right there and then. Unless there was an infraction I had to address, I ignored minor misbehaviour for a time while I sought to get us all in a positive work space. That a positive fuels further positives is a truism. The energy generated carries momentum and affords you opportunities to further develop positivity.

While praise could be given individually, and I worked with that extensively, I also had to give collective praise or the whole dynamics of us and we wouldn’t come together. Individual praise is important, however, collective praise based in what’s there and then is a potent force.

Applying these principles to your work environment will vary and as adults you have an enormous scope that doesn’t exist in a classroom or for ‘kids.’ I think at times people forget, or are distracted from, what actually works in their favour. Unless you work in a toxic environment, (which then means you need to get out!) then working with the positives will no doubt enrich your work life.

Work with the positives – pack a good lunch


 Source: BBC Good Food 

A good breakfast and a lunch is essential to get through the day. There are many voices about what you should have to sustain you. No matter which you listen to, they are all about sustenance and sustaining. They are about how to set yourself up for your day, fuel your efforts and get through the day. In the same breath, sustenance and sustaining encompasses positive self-talk.

Positive self-talk is tricky for many of us. We tend to see such as egotistical which it can be in a way if you broadcast your successes far and wide. That’s not what I mean, and, I’m fairly certain most of you know the distinction. There’s nothing wrong with giving yourself a pat on the back. When and how to do this is the consideration.  Just as I found benefit in praising my students, I also would review at the end of the day and the week what I felt I’d achieved. You can’t rely upon others to feed you positives because that’s unrealistic. You have to at times pack your own lunch to sustain yourself. Carole also mentioned the value of positive self-appraisal in her post – Give yourself a 10 out of 10.

While regular and routine, giving myself a positive review wasn’t necessarily much ritualized, though I can imagine that working for some. A few minutes clearing my desk at the end of the day, or sitting over a cup of coffee before I packed to leave, was enough on most occasions. Then, I’d consider how I got through the day or the week, what worked and allowed myself to feel proud in what I’d done. For me that had to be time spent at work because when I walked out the door at the end of the day I switched gears. I left work behind till I wanted to call it back to mind.

Work with the positives – learn from and at work

There’s a question, or series of them, which is well worth asking yourself from time to time:

What have I learned about myself, others and the world around me – on this occasion – today – this week – this month?

Learning is a leaven to positivity. When I felt I’d taken on something new, learned something, then that made me feel positive about what I was doing. It didn’t have to be world shaking. Sometimes it was as simple as : I didn’t think of that – That’s a different spin on matters – I was surprised to realize … The inverse were times when I walked away from a class, a meeting, whatever when I felt I’d gained little or next to nothing. Such occasions were frustrating. I felt disappointed in myself and my expectations; as well as disappointed in what I expected from others.

Despite these times, which needed their own form of address to retain a positive mind-set, I found looking out to learn gave me positive energy. I’ve barely scratched the surface here. If you’re in a space where you have so much more to say then that’s a positive, right?

Next time you pack a lunch, then think about what will sustain you and carry you through your day.