What’s the drill – July 24: A ratio to build up your emotional resilience

Researcher, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson wants you to infuse some more positivity into your life. And really, who could argue with that?

She discovered that experiencing positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio with negative ones leads people to a tipping point beyond which they naturally become more resilient to adversity.

Emotional resilience by purposefully building up your positivity muscle — seeking out positive experiences, expressing gratitude, looking on the bright side…

For some it takes more work and effort. But perhaps stay away from the dictionary when looking for positive emotion words and inspiration:

62% of the words for emotions in the dictionary are negative.


This just in… emotions are contagious – via The Energy Project

Emotional contagion spreads quickly and fills the air of your environment. Can you put out the fire?

Take this warning (story) from Energy Project CEO, Tony Schwartz, and his lessons learned…

Emotional Contagion Can Take Down Your Whole Team – The Energy Project.


  1. The emotions people bring to work are as important as their cognitive skills, and especially so for leaders.

  2. Because it’s not possible to check our emotions at the door when we get to work — even when that’s expected — it pays to be aware of what we’re feeling in any given moment. You can’t change what you don’t notice.

  3. Negative emotions spread fast and they’re highly toxic. The problem with the executive we let go was not that he was critical, but rather that he was so singularly focused on what was wrong that he lost sight of the bigger picture, including his own negative impact on others.

  4. Authenticity matters because you can’t fake positivity for long. It is possible to put on a “game face” — to say you’re feeling one way when you’re actually feeling another — but the truth will ultimately reveal itself in your facial, vocal, and postural cues. We must learn to monitor and manage our moods.

  5. The key to balancing realism and optimism is to embrace the paradox of realistic optimism. Practically, that means having the faith to tell the most hopeful and empowering story possible in any given situation, but also the willingness to confront difficult facts as they arise and deal with them directly.

The changing definition of failure

Yesterday we discussed how taking a positive approach to failure can lead to innovation and enhanced creativity.

When we as individuals and organizations change not only our definition but overall mindset around what failure is, we open ourselves up to taking more risks, seeking new connections, not getting bogged down in what we did wrong, but instead focusing on what we did well and can replicate.

Call it positive psychology, call it “looking for the bright spots”, call it “embracing failure” – the truth is the definition of failure is changing in a positive direction. 

What is your definition of failure?

I believe failure is neither black nor white, right nor wrong – but it can lead us closer to the truth, to deep learning experiences and to the insights that can help to create a more meaningful life.

Here is how my definition of failure shifted once I began taking Improvisation classes:

The old –  failure is often very personal. Just the word alone has a stigma associated with it, and often brings up feelings of shame. Failure causes an inward, closed-off response.

The new – a failure is only a true failure if there is nothing to be learned from the experience. When we aren’t punished for failing, we feel less fear to take risks, to seek out new learnings and to commit fully to whatever it is we are doing. Failure lifts us up instead of weighing us down.

Do you tend to see the positive, or the negative when you look at failure?

Tools including emotion regulation, mindfulness, and self leadership can help to moderate your relationship to failure.

What we know is, with most things – we have a choice.  We can work to strip the emotional (and often very personal) charge from a failure situation so that we view a “mistake” as a real gift.