8 Easy Ways to Spread a Great Attitude

Attitudes are as contagious as the common cold.

Posted Nov 24, 2019

Years ago I worked for a corporate client at an international agency, which instructed me to never say I couldn’t make a meeting because of my children. “Say you have an overlapping commitment. That sounds more professional.” Everyone knew I had children, but it would weaken my profile, according to the agency president, if I admitted I actually take time for my family. Or for anything personal at all.

How old school! How ridiculous! I was encouraged to pretend I didn’t have children or a life outside of work for fear it would place my perceived commitment at risk, yet another reinforcement of the work-life divide. In truth, with today’s hypermobility, our work and personal lives overlap more than ever. Work is a part of life. It always has been. But when work takes over our lives and we have little time for anything other than the daily grind, that is when trouble sets in. 

Anese Cavanaugh, author of Contagious Culture and her new release, Contagious YOU, examines how to provide a positive, creative culture for ourselves. In her first book, she asked questions about how each of us shows up, takes care of ourselves and the impact those decisions have on an organizational level. Shortly after the book’s release, many different industries started to be interested in the idea of creating a more positive workplace culture. But Anese began to notice that the deeper conversation lay elsewhere. It turns out WE are the culture. Each of us contributes to the collective. And so she embarked on a new analysis to help people examine their lives even more deeply.

Her signature methodology, called the IEP Method(R) (which stands for Intentional, Energetic Presence), is all about how we show up in the world. No matter what we are doing, whether it is having a conversation with loved ones, leading a project team, or doing the dishes, she claims we can be intentional in every action, thought and emotion. Awareness arises when we take a moment to pause and ask ourselves – how am I feeling? How am I showing up? How do I want to be as a human being?

The truth is we cannot make the greatest impact if we are totally exhausted. However, if we are connected to our intentions and the impact we want to create, if we engage in self-care to manifest enough energy and stamina to fulfill those intentions, and if we practice presence in our lives, then we can lead in a more sustainable fashion. It is a virtuous cycle that feeds our performance in every aspect of our lives.

Anese Cavanaugh, used with permission.
Source: Anese Cavanaugh, used with permission.

Contagious YOU supports the notion of showing up as the human being you are at the workplace, which, unlike what the agency advocated in my case, includes the other roles you play.

Her ideas aren’t revolutionary—everyone knows it is more effective to be kind, but as people climb the ladder of success in their careers, they often leave their “humanness” behind. In most cases, the assumption remains that if you assume larger roles of responsibility, you have to choose between being a leader and being a human.

That’s where Anese Cavanaugh’s ideas can be helpful, especially for people in leadership positions. In classic Slow philosophy, she encourages us all to take time for self-care. Below are eight ways to ensure you feed your positive attitude every day.

#1 Practice self-care.

How do you define self-care? The key is to examine how you talk to yourself. Self-care does not mean you have to self-optimize by consistently adding to your ever-growing to-do list with the implicit demand that you must balance it all, have it all, do it all. Self-care is actually simple. It starts with being kind to yourself. Negative self-talk destroys your energy. Positive self-talk uplifts it. 

Have you ever wondered why traffic is most annoying when you are in a rush? Or why things seem to go wrong on those days when you are in a bad mood? We are particularly susceptible to negative energy and, thus, negative self-talk, when our immunity toward bad vibes has been weakened through stress. Self-care is key to holding your space when confronted with negative energy. It’s also an essential—and one of the most overlooked—leadership skills. 

It’s harder to lead well and make clear decisions when we’re exhausted, burned out, or not fully resourced. Good sleep, proper nutrition, regular exercise, hydration, a positive environment, contemplative practices, breaks, mindset, and well-being all contribute to your personal resources and leadership impact. As the adage so rightly says, if your well is dry, you can serve no one. Prioritizing self-care is crucial to our well-being and our ability to do good, too.  

When we show up through the lens of Slow, we are more conscious, present, and able to live up to our fullest potential. Self-awareness, Anese says, will not only help us realize when something is off; we are also more prepared to address it, make decisions about it, and be more in service of those we love and lead.

Her claim is that we are all leaders in our own right (I agree—if you lead your life, you are a leader for sure). Her book delves into various issues of leadership from the workplace perspective, but her golden nuggets of wisdom apply to anyone looking to live a mindful life. Other tips include:

#2 Make space to pause.

In our go-go-go world, we are at serious risk of burnout. Leaders, in particular, can role model the Power of Slow by making it safe to stop, look and listen to ourselves. They can actively create spaces in their world in which they and the people they lead feel comfortable enough to be themselves. Filling that space is not slacking; it is honoring your noise-reducing need to reflect.

#3 Reboot regularly.

In addition to taking what I call “mini-mas” or little breaks throughout the day that represent the Japanese term “ma” or the space between things, taking a full day offline and in life grants us the freedom to think and just be. We cannot be the best version of ourselves if we get lost in the shuffle of stress. Our inner world is as important as the outer world we serve.

#4 Connect to your purpose. 

When we are clear why we do what we do, it leads us to make more impactful decisions. It is not indulgent to live a purpose-driven life. It is essential to our well-being. Routinely ask yourself, am I doing what I am meant to be doing? Do I feel good about the life I am leading? What needs to change? What can I do more of? If you aren’t clear, it is time to reevaluate the job you are in, the clients you serve or your life’s focus.

#5 Connect to your presence and pause.

Pay a visit to your internal world by shutting off the external noise. My personal favorite is listening to relaxing music while closing my eyes and allowing my mind to wander.

#6 Connect with loved ones.

Whether it is your favorite work colleague or your best friend, reach out to those you love and admire. They can be your greatest resource in sustaining your positive energy. Be that person for them as well. Lighting someone else’s candle does not diminish yours; it actually makes the world brighter.

#7 Connect with pleasurable moments of play.

Playful adults are more resilient than serious sticks-in-the-mud. Take time for playfulness every day. Whether it is an outdoor romp with your pet, a round of ping-pong with your kids or a 10-minute crossword puzzle over breakfast, integrating play is not only fun, it helps with your overall productivity.

Self-care is an act of generosity, not only to ourselves but also to those we nurture. Our attitudes are contagious. The question we get to pose every day is, which one will I choose?

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