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This unpredictable world will bring us our shares of ups and downs of varying degrees, but these are all opportunities to ask ourselves questions about how we want to see them. And to make it so that we can smell the roses.

People have a natural tendency to look on the bright side

True
False
Right !
True. “We like to think we are rational beings. We watch our backs, weigh up the pros and cons, and pop an umbrella in our luggage. But neuro-science and social sciences tell us something different: we are more optimistic than realistic.” In general, you tend to overestimate the likelihood of experiencing positive events, and underestimate negative ones. This cognitive bias, called the “optimism bias”, leads you to believe you are less exposed to something negative than other people. This is a very common and widespread bias, and one that it not necessarily based on sex, age, origins, or culture.



“Is optimism eroded under an avalanche of catastrophic news of wars, mass unemployment, natural disasters, and the like? We may become collectively pessimistic, but, when it comes down to ourselves as individuals, we are optimistic no matter what.

Excessive optimism can be disastrous of course, because it is behind vague or erroneous decision-making, but this bias also protects us by helping us move forward. Without optimism, our ancestors would never have ventured very far, and we would perhaps still be living in caves.”

To move forwards, we need to be able to imagine other realities, and believe that we can achieve them. We need to think positive.

Source: “Le biais d’optimisme, une erreur salutaire”, Books, 2020
Wrong !
True. “We like to think we are rational beings. We watch our backs, weigh up the pros and cons, and pop an umbrella in our luggage. But neuro-science and social sciences tell us something different: we are more optimistic than realistic.” In general, you tend to overestimate the likelihood of experiencing positive events, and underestimate negative ones. This cognitive bias, called the “optimism bias”, leads you to believe you are less exposed to something negative than other people. This is a very common and widespread bias, and one that it not necessarily based on sex, age, origins, or culture.



“Is optimism eroded under an avalanche of catastrophic news of wars, mass unemployment, natural disasters, and the like? We may become collectively pessimistic, but, when it comes down to ourselves as individuals, we are optimistic no matter what.

Excessive optimism can be disastrous of course, because it is behind vague or erroneous decision-making, but this bias also protects us by helping us move forward. Without optimism, our ancestors would never have ventured very far, and we would perhaps still be living in caves.”

To move forwards, we need to be able to imagine other realities, and believe that we can achieve them. We need to think positive.

Source: “Le biais d’optimisme, une erreur salutaire”, Books, 2020

You are alone in the face of pressure

True
False
Right !
True … The distinction must be made between daily, nagging pressure—a stimulating factor as long as it doesn’t become toxic and lead to paralysis—and stress caused by a crisis—a factor of individual and collective inefficiency if you are not prepared to cope.

Since the 1960s, many psychologists and psychiatrists have sought to classify personal events on a stress scale. These grids are only indicative because the experience of stress is highly individualized. The level of tolerance to stress thus varies depending on the experience and personality of each person. Everyone is thus alone in the face of pressure. The challenge, for Combalbert, is to prepare yourself to transform pressure into a mobilizing factor. The first step is taking stock of your reactions to stressful situations.

Source: “Preparation and Experience - Imperatives for Handling Pressure” Interview with Laurent Combalbert, formerly a negotiator for an elite unit of the French police, and founder of ADN Group, Business Digest 2011.
Wrong !
True … The distinction must be made between daily, nagging pressure—a stimulating factor as long as it doesn’t become toxic and lead to paralysis—and stress caused by a crisis—a factor of individual and collective inefficiency if you are not prepared to cope.

Since the 1960s, many psychologists and psychiatrists have sought to classify personal events on a stress scale. These grids are only indicative because the experience of stress is highly individualized. The level of tolerance to stress thus varies depending on the experience and personality of each person. Everyone is thus alone in the face of pressure. The challenge, for Combalbert, is to prepare yourself to transform pressure into a mobilizing factor. The first step is taking stock of your reactions to stressful situations.

Source: “Preparation and Experience - Imperatives for Handling Pressure” Interview with Laurent Combalbert, formerly a negotiator for an elite unit of the French police, and founder of ADN Group, Business Digest 2011.

In a stressful situation, keep your emotions to yourself!

True
False
Right !
How do your emotions play out at work? Do you try to bottle them up and pretend they don’t exist?

Or do you tend to brood, obsessing endlessly over them? Luckily, these two common coping mechanisms are not your only choices. Author, psychologist, and executive coach Susan David offers a third way, a concept that she terms “emotional agility,” defined as: “being flexible with your thoughts and feelings so that you can respond optimally to everyday situations.” In contrast to this ability, she says stands “emotional rigidity,” or the tendency to “get hooked by thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that don’t serve you.” David presents a four-step model to building greater emotional agility.

Showing up: facing your emotions with curiosity and acceptance

Stepping out: separating impulse from action

Walking your why: living by your own set of values

Moving on: making lasting change

Source: Emotional agility: Get unstuck, embrace change, and thrive in work and life, by Susan David (Avery, 2016).
Wrong !
How do your emotions play out at work? Do you try to bottle them up and pretend they don’t exist?

Or do you tend to brood, obsessing endlessly over them? Luckily, these two common coping mechanisms are not your only choices. Author, psychologist, and executive coach Susan David offers a third way, a concept that she terms “emotional agility,” defined as: “being flexible with your thoughts and feelings so that you can respond optimally to everyday situations.” In contrast to this ability, she says stands “emotional rigidity,” or the tendency to “get hooked by thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that don’t serve you.” David presents a four-step model to building greater emotional agility.

Showing up: facing your emotions with curiosity and acceptance

Stepping out: separating impulse from action

Walking your why: living by your own set of values

Moving on: making lasting change

Source: Emotional agility: Get unstuck, embrace change, and thrive in work and life, by Susan David (Avery, 2016).

A bad mood is just a nuisance

True
False
Right !
“Given a choice, you’d probably prefer to be happy all the time, and there are advantages to that state,” admits David. And yet, as she goes on to explain, your so-called “negative” emotions also serve your overall wellbeing in important ways: “It’s when we’re in a funk that we focus and dig down. People in ‘negative’ moods tend to be less gullible and more skeptical, while happy folk may accept easy answers and trust false smiles. It’s usually when we get knocked down a few pegs that more of the subtle, sometimes painful but potentially important underlying details in life come to the fore (…) While it’s rarely fun to be in a bad mood, and it’s certainly not healthy to constantly stew in ‘negative’ emotions, here’s what experiences of sadness, anger, guilt, or fear can do”:

1. Help us form arguments

2. Improve memory

3. Encourage perseverance

4. Make us more polite and attentive

5. Encourage generosity

6. Make us less prone to confirmation bias

Source: Emotional agility: Get unstuck, embrace change, and thrive in work and life, by Susan David (Avery, 2016).
Wrong !
“Given a choice, you’d probably prefer to be happy all the time, and there are advantages to that state,” admits David. And yet, as she goes on to explain, your so-called “negative” emotions also serve your overall wellbeing in important ways: “It’s when we’re in a funk that we focus and dig down. People in ‘negative’ moods tend to be less gullible and more skeptical, while happy folk may accept easy answers and trust false smiles. It’s usually when we get knocked down a few pegs that more of the subtle, sometimes painful but potentially important underlying details in life come to the fore (…) While it’s rarely fun to be in a bad mood, and it’s certainly not healthy to constantly stew in ‘negative’ emotions, here’s what experiences of sadness, anger, guilt, or fear can do”:

1. Help us form arguments

2. Improve memory

3. Encourage perseverance

4. Make us more polite and attentive

5. Encourage generosity

6. Make us less prone to confirmation bias

Source: Emotional agility: Get unstuck, embrace change, and thrive in work and life, by Susan David (Avery, 2016).

You can not intentionally decide to have a positive outlook

True
False
Right !
Research shows that the brain’s automatic system seeks out evidence in support of the conscious brain’s “priorities, top-of-mind concerns, and even moods” (i.e., outlook) and tends to overlook any conflicting information, which is why it is so important to set a deliberately healthy outlook. To facilitate the type of reflection that results in healthier outlooks, Webb designed the following intention-setting questions, which she reflects on for a few minutes every morning:

• What are your day’s most important activities? What matters most for making those activities a success? That’s your aim for the day.

• When you think about the day ahead, what concerns or worries dominate your thoughts or mood? Does dealing with those concerns help you to achieve your aim for the day? If not, try to set them aside for the day.

• Given your priorities, what do you want to see happen today? Decide to focus your attention on that.

Source: How to have a good day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life, by Caroline WEBB (Crown Business, 2016).
Wrong !
Research shows that the brain’s automatic system seeks out evidence in support of the conscious brain’s “priorities, top-of-mind concerns, and even moods” (i.e., outlook) and tends to overlook any conflicting information, which is why it is so important to set a deliberately healthy outlook. To facilitate the type of reflection that results in healthier outlooks, Webb designed the following intention-setting questions, which she reflects on for a few minutes every morning:

• What are your day’s most important activities? What matters most for making those activities a success? That’s your aim for the day.

• When you think about the day ahead, what concerns or worries dominate your thoughts or mood? Does dealing with those concerns help you to achieve your aim for the day? If not, try to set them aside for the day.

• Given your priorities, what do you want to see happen today? Decide to focus your attention on that.

Source: How to have a good day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life, by Caroline WEBB (Crown Business, 2016).

Articulating goals helps you think positive

True
False
Right !
Setting concrete goals at the start of the day is a great way to focus your energy, reduce distraction, and thereby ward off procrastination (procrastination is a primary warning signal of burnout). What’s more, research shows that how you articulate your goals can either boost or undermine your energy levels: “Research suggests that we should aim to describe (our goals) in a way that is positive, personally meaningful, feasible, and situation-specific.”

• Positive: It is more energizing to frame goals in terms of achieving desirable outcomes than avoiding bad ones. Why? The former triggers discovery mode whereas the latter triggers defensive mode).

• Personally meaningful: Reflecting on why your goals matter to you or how they will benefit something that you care about enables you to derive greater satisfaction from your work, which is energizing.

• Feasible and situation-specific: Articulating goals in “smaller, bite-sized chunks” decreases the likelihood that you will feel overwhelmed by them, thereby making it easier to get started.

Source: How to have a good day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life, by Caroline WEBB (Crown Business, 2016).
Wrong !
Setting concrete goals at the start of the day is a great way to focus your energy, reduce distraction, and thereby ward off procrastination (procrastination is a primary warning signal of burnout). What’s more, research shows that how you articulate your goals can either boost or undermine your energy levels: “Research suggests that we should aim to describe (our goals) in a way that is positive, personally meaningful, feasible, and situation-specific.”

• Positive: It is more energizing to frame goals in terms of achieving desirable outcomes than avoiding bad ones. Why? The former triggers discovery mode whereas the latter triggers defensive mode).

• Personally meaningful: Reflecting on why your goals matter to you or how they will benefit something that you care about enables you to derive greater satisfaction from your work, which is energizing.

• Feasible and situation-specific: Articulating goals in “smaller, bite-sized chunks” decreases the likelihood that you will feel overwhelmed by them, thereby making it easier to get started.

Source: How to have a good day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life, by Caroline WEBB (Crown Business, 2016).

Honestly, isn’t it better to talk about the “light at the end of the tunnel” rather than “worrying times”?

True
False
Right !
Of course! This means that even when you think you’re discussing your business strategy dispassionately, the way you talk about it and the language you choose will convey your emotional and mental state to others — irrespective of your intentions. And you can be sure that the emotional impact of your words will be even stronger when they are written. People tend to reread important messages, internalizing their affective content.

Research has shown that to avoid accidentally triggering anxiety through language, best practice is to refrain from using negative words (for example, horrific, shocking, and dangerous, as well as euphemisms such as challenging, problematic, and undesirable). In fact, the only criterion for determining whether a word is negative is whether it increases the listener’s negative affect — in other words, that it might elevate their levels of anxiety, worry, and concern.

You will have a different effect on those listening if you talk about “hope,” “improvements,” or “light at the end of the tunnel,” as opposed to, “mortality rate,” “worrying times,” or “depression.”

Source: “5 Ways Leaders Accidentally Stress Out their Employees” by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, HBR May 2020
Wrong !
Of course! This means that even when you think you’re discussing your business strategy dispassionately, the way you talk about it and the language you choose will convey your emotional and mental state to others — irrespective of your intentions. And you can be sure that the emotional impact of your words will be even stronger when they are written. People tend to reread important messages, internalizing their affective content.

Research has shown that to avoid accidentally triggering anxiety through language, best practice is to refrain from using negative words (for example, horrific, shocking, and dangerous, as well as euphemisms such as challenging, problematic, and undesirable). In fact, the only criterion for determining whether a word is negative is whether it increases the listener’s negative affect — in other words, that it might elevate their levels of anxiety, worry, and concern.

You will have a different effect on those listening if you talk about “hope,” “improvements,” or “light at the end of the tunnel,” as opposed to, “mortality rate,” “worrying times,” or “depression.”

Source: “5 Ways Leaders Accidentally Stress Out their Employees” by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, HBR May 2020

Your behavior is a compass for your team

True
False
Right !
Of course, all the time and especially in an unlikely situation! Be aware of the impact of your attitude on all employees. Your slightest actions are observed and (over)interpreted.

• Learn to react calmly in times of stress. Identify the kinds of situations that are likely to make you lose your cool and plan corrective actions (coaching, self-help, etc.).

• Assume responsibility for your mistakes. Don’t blame them on predecessors or subordinates.


• Be coherent. Do what you say and say what you do. Any gap will be quickly identified.


• Avoid being too negative or cynical, because it will demoralize your troops.

• Don’t be too overwhelming as a leader who ultimately makes all the decisions. Such an approach undermines the ability to delegate.

Source: “What to Ask the Person in the Mirror”, by Robert Steven Kaplan, (Harvard Business Press, July 2011).

Wrong !
Of course, all the time and especially in an unlikely situation! Be aware of the impact of your attitude on all employees. Your slightest actions are observed and (over)interpreted.

• Learn to react calmly in times of stress. Identify the kinds of situations that are likely to make you lose your cool and plan corrective actions (coaching, self-help, etc.).

• Assume responsibility for your mistakes. Don’t blame them on predecessors or subordinates.


• Be coherent. Do what you say and say what you do. Any gap will be quickly identified.


• Avoid being too negative or cynical, because it will demoralize your troops.

• Don’t be too overwhelming as a leader who ultimately makes all the decisions. Such an approach undermines the ability to delegate.

Source: “What to Ask the Person in the Mirror”, by Robert Steven Kaplan, (Harvard Business Press, July 2011).

Your results

/ 8

From 0 to 2: Uh, hello?!

Oh dear! It seems your emotions over ride your rationality. Ask yourself these three questions: were you aware that a chaotic state was in the offing? Have you acknowledged and accepted the negative emotions that it created? What would you like to do to break free from this pessimistic state that is getting in your way?

From 3 to 5: Maybe you’ve got the knack?

You have shown your ability to handle a crisis situation, and to find solutions to escape the tyranny of the negative emotions that are holding you back. But do you have a tendency to manage this in a personal way, running the risk of exhausting you and your team? Your ability to get back on an even keel and think clearly requires daily work so that positive thinking becomes a reflex.

From 6 to 8: Wow!

Hello there Genius! You have mastered the art of coping. You probably practice this with tools and devices of your own choosing (art, sport, breathing exercises, and meditation etc.), enabling you to take a step back and not allowing negative emotions to overcome you. Through your cool-headedness, your ability to listen, and your capacity for positive thinking, you are a model of optimism for your team. Well done!