CEO Coach Robinson Blog # Seven- Notes on building a positivity “tool kit”.

by jeremy.robinson on March 8, 2010


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Because I think Barbara Fredrickson’s Positivity book is so important, I’ve added some additional notes from her book to add to my last blog.  The theme here is how to build what she calls a positivity tool kit.  I do urge you to read her book because her book is far richer than my notes.

Fredrickson has created a free Positivity Self Test.  You can go to and you can take the test and track your positivity ratio on a day to day basis.

Fredrickson offers 12 tools to increase positivity in as part of your tool kit.

  1. Make your motto: “Be open”: On your morning walk, rather than being lost in your expanding to-do list, practice being open to nature.
  2. Create high quality connections with people: You can literally feel high quality connections because these resonate within your body.  There are four ways to build high quality connections-  Be present and affirming.  2.  Support what the other person is doing.  3.  Trust- depend on this person to meet your expectations and let it show.  4.  Play- allow yourself to be with this person sometimes with no outcomes in mind.
  3. Cultivate kindness: Give yourself the goal of performing five acts of kindness each day.  Assess what those around you may need most.  Find positive ways to make a difference in the lives of others.
  4. Develop distractions: Distractions serve the purpose of breaking the grip of ruminations, and obsessive thinking which cause endless negativity.  Make lists of healthy vs. unhealthy distractions. Healthy distractions might include going to a bike ride, walking your dog, playing a game with your kid or a friend, reading a novel, etc.  Unhealthy distractions might include eating, drinking alcohol, playing a video game.
  5. Dispute negative thinking: Self-dispute your typical negative thoughts.  Capture your inner critic and self-dispute what that critic tells you.  See Seligman’s Learned Optimism for how to do this in more detail.
  6. Find nature nearby: Make these places regular destinations for you and your friends.
  7. Learn and apply your strengths: You can go to and learn your 24 signature strengths and how to apply them.
  8. Mediate mindfully: Sit in a quiet place for five or ten minutes and take a few deep breaths. Notice how it feels.  Where do you feel your breath?  Continue to observe your breath.  The goal is to attend to your breath, to practice being present, right here and now.  Invariably, your mind will wander. Let it wander- don’t attempt to suppress your thoughts but notice your mind and accept where it is going and breathe through it.  Continue to stay present.
  9. Mediate on loving kindness: Start by focusing on your breath and the region of your heart.  Once you are grounded there, reflect on a person for whom you have warm, tender or compassionate feelings.  Your goal is to rouse warm and natural feelings by visualizing how being with this loved person makes you feel.  After a while, let go of your image of that person and hold the feeling.
  10. Ritualize gratitude: Being grateful means you to notice the gifts and appreciate people who surround you.   When you are leaving a place, even say a hotel room, silently thank that place for supporting you in whatever experience occurred there.
  11. Savor positivity: Find a source or love, joy or pride and a willingness to think differently about these sources.  Think of a moment from yesterday or last week when you enjoyed someone.  Allow your mind to feel the good feelings and expand them into even bigger moments of celebration.
  12. Visualize your future: Imagine yourself five years from now after everything has gone as well as it possibly could.  You have succeeded and accomplished all the goals you could have accomplished.  Write these down over the course of several days or a week. After a week or so, review what you’ve written and draw out from your dreams, a life mission.  What purpose do you want to drive you each day?  What’s the meaning of your life? Soak in these tough questions and get your ideas on paper, crafting a mission statement.  Create a five year plan to make this mission statement happen.  Bring it down to small bullet points.

Coach’s comment: If you’re serious about undertaking these 12 tools to increase positivity in your life, don’t get lost in the details of Fredrickson’s suggestions. For example, under suggestion # 3, is it important for you to cultivate five acts of kindness each day when one act is really deep and meaningful?  Of course not. The idea here is to live these feelings deeply, with greater appreciation of the grateful life- not to check items off a shopping list.

The problem with lists like this is they can be experienced and enacted in the most superficial way.  Executing behaviors on the list superficially undercuts the whole purpose of what this is all about.

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