A positive attitude can go a long way. You’ve heard that probably since kindergarten. The trouble is, many of us don’t really know what to do with that adage, believing instead that our temperament isn’t something we can really control. But with practice, we can learn to adjust our attitudes in order to make them work more in our favor more often.
The key, of course, isn’t to become perpetually optimistic. No one can uphold a sunny disposition 100% of the time. But you don’t have to. Instead, learning to think positively in the face of adversity–when times really get tough–is both the more useful and more achievable approach when it comes to success. Here are a few things the most successful people do in order to stay positive.
Like temperament, emotional intelligence isn’t an entirely fixed property. It’s something you can work to develop. Start simply by recognizing that your emotions are largely what drive and motivate you, rather than barriers to accomplishing anything. We aren’t fully rational creatures and shouldn’t try to be. The most successful positive-minded people have simply learned how to manage and regulate their emotions.
We all experience ups and downs in our lives. Frustration, disappointment, fear, sadness, and anger are all part of being human. Positive people experience these feelings without letting themselves become overwhelmed by them, realizing that everything passes with time. They also don’t make decisions when they’re feeling strong emotions, but wait until they’re on a more even keel.
There’s no one out there who’s never failed. But positive-minded people know that they need to take risks and push their boundaries, which courts failure. Still, they approach new challenges with the belief that either they’ll succeed or take something useful from a potential stumble that will help them do better next time.
The startup world may have nurtured a certain obsession with productive failure that may be overblown. But while failure can’t teach us absolutely everything we need to succeed, it can help define for us what we are good at and what still needs work.
People who have learned to think positively under pressure feel the constant need to accomplish something new. They use goals to mark their progress, keep motivated, and stay on target. Goal setting is a way of life: Once you’ve achieved one, you immediately want to set others. More than just a continuous desire to do better, having something to constantly strive for adds substance and meaning to your life. And it’s that that will sustain you when you the going gets tough.
Despite always looking for new challenges, those who succeed at staying positive are always grateful for what they already have. Not only that, they tend to thank those who’ve helped them along the way and are careful to give credit where it is due. That’s an insurance policy against egotism—and there are few things more counterproductive to your success than a bruised ego when you fail.
Regardless of their circumstances or the conditions of their upbringing, positive-minded people remain very aware of and thankful for the gifts that have been bestowed upon them. After all, some of the most important things in life aren’t those we earn—they’re given to us by those who care about us. It’s only a mind-set steeped in gratitude that goes any way toward making us worthy of them.
This one just about goes without saying, but it’s worth mentioning because of the impact it has on others—an impact that comes back around and proves mutually reinforcing: Positive people are simply more often a pleasure to be around.
Misery loves company, and miserable people quickly realize that they don’t win many allies. Positive-minded people, on the other hand, tend to attract the voluntary support of others. That collaborative network helps drives their success, which in turn makes other people keep wanting to work with and associate with them, including in trying times.
One way to cultivate this sort of positivity is to use humor (tactfully) to brighten up situations and see silver linings in circumstances that look discouraging. This type of mind-set prevents you from blaming others and pushes you toward solutions instead.
Highly successful people who stay positive are never satisfied with what they already know. They’re often attending lectures, reading or listening to audiobooks and podcasts, and finding new ways to hone their existing skills and pick up new ones. Not only do they have mentors who push them to do better and challenge their ideas, they also tend to mentor others. Being driven by your passions–and surrounding yourself with people on all sides who do the same–is a powerful defense against adversity.
Read more: 7 Traits Of Great Mentors