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What's your positivity ratio - and why does it matter?

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive & Leadership Coach, president of MAP Professional Development Inc, and founder of the annual Spark event.

Think about your typical day. I know – “typical” probably doesn’t exist in these ever-changing times, but humor me for just a moment.

Fredrickson - Positivity bookOn a typical day, how many positive acknowledgments do you receive? Praise from your colleagues, sincere gratitude from your leader, “You’re the best parent in the world” from your kids, that kind of thing.

Now, on that same typical day, how many negative acknowledgments do you receive? Perhaps criticism, expressions of disappointment, “You’re the meanest parent in the world,” and the like.

Would you say your negative number is usually equal to or higher than your positive? On some days, the ones that have you reaching for your TV remote or vice of choice, the negative might really outweigh the positive.

But what can we do about it? And is it really necessary to do anything at all?

According to Barbara Fredrickson, researcher and author of the book Positivity, YES. The amount and quality of positivity in our lives impacts our relationships, well-being, even our physical health. We must consciously invite more positivity into our work and lives if we, and those we lead, are to flourish.

Positivity is more than simply replacing negative thoughts with positive ones or becoming more “Pollyanna-like,” asserts Fredrickson. It runs deeper, tapping into true joy, gratitude, hope, inspiration, and more. Just like a flurry of complaining and frustration can lead us into a negative spiral, conscious positivity creates an upward spiral that benefits not only you, but transfers to those around you as well.

I first learned about the book Positivity while attending an executive coach training in Santa Barbara, CA. After a few instructors mentioned it, I picked up a copy at a local bookstore and devoured it on my entire flight home. Even if you shy away from “researchy” books, Positivity is a rare breed: thoroughly based in science but also entertaining, engaging, and pertinent to anyone who wants to lead with joy and purpose.

Positivity shares powerful research and applicable tips on everything from boosting one’s own positivity to dealing with negative people to bouncing back from challenges. One of the most intriguing takeaways from the book involves the positivity ratio: Fredrickson encourages us to shoot for a positivity ratio of 3:1; in other words, three positive, uplifting experiences for every one negative or heart-wrenching experience. While the examples I offered in the opening sentences mostly include experiences that happen “to” you, keep in mind that you are the leader in your own positivity. You can create, seek out, and inspire positive experiences at any time, and you have a lot more power in this realm than you might think…especially as a leader!

You don’t have to be peppy, hyper, and happy-go-lucky all the time in order to experience the benefits of positivity; remember, the ratio is 3:1, not 100:0. You do, however, need to consciously cultivate positive moments into your daily experience. Check out Dr. Fredrickson’s quick online quiz to see how you presently fare: www.positivityratio.com.

Tipping the scales in favor of positivity is not always an easy thing to do, but your life will never be the same once you make this your habit!

Christi Hegstad MAP Inc HeadshotCOACH CHRISTI’S CHALLENGE:

This month, start every meeting – staff meetings, 1-on-1 meetings, performance reviews – on a positive note. My favorite way to do this is to allow each person to briefly share a win they’ve experienced since the previous meeting. Don’t let people off the hook; everyone shares something, even if it’s “I kept my tomato plants alive another week”!

By starting positively, you raise the energy and mindset of everyone in the room, which will prove helpful when delving into important topics and challenges later in the meeting. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!

How else might you bring positivity to work? Share your ideas below.


Dr. Christi Hegstad coaches leaders and executives to succeed beyond their expectations while bringing meaning and purpose to work. Learn more at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.

Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D. (Crown Publishing Group, 2009).


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