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Positive People See Opportunities

Many years ago, two shoe salesmen were sent to Africa to sell shoes. One reported back to his company, “Situation hopeless. They don’t wear shoes.” The other reported back, “Glorious opportunity! They don’t have any shoes yet.”

Shawn Achor shares this story in his book “The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles that Fuel Success and Performance at Work.” The point of the story (and the book in general) is that positive people see opportunities everywhere and see adversity as an opportunity for growth. Negative people miss the opportunities all around them.

Which type of person are you? If you say you are a negative person, you are not forever doomed to continue on this negative path. You can teach yourself to be positive, and by doing so, you can open your eyes to the opportunities that surround you every day.

Achor writes: “The more your brain picks up on the positive, the more you’ll expect this trend to continue, and so the more optimistic you’ll be. And optimism, it turns out, is a tremendously powerful predictor of work performance. Studies have shown that optimists set more goals (and more difficult goals) than pessimists, and put more effort into attaining those goals, stay more engaged in the face of difficulty, and rise above obstacles more easily. Optimists also cope better in high stress situations and are better able to maintain high levels of wellbeing during times of hardship—all skills that are crucial to high performance in a demanding work environment.”

Glorious opportunities abound in the fitness world among what many negative people may see as overwhelming adversities. How do you tackle such large opportunities? One bite at a time. Break big opportunities into several small bites until you have mastered that portion, building your confidence to take on the next portion.

You do not have to take on the problems of your business alone. Talk with your managers and staff, talk with your members, talk with business owners inside and outside the fitness industry. These discussions will help you gain knowledge and develop ideas as you create connections and social bonds that can re-energize you. As Achor shares, Thomas Edison did not invent the light bulb on his own. He had a team of 30 people working with him. You can and should have a team, too.

Sharing the process and the stress with others rather than isolating yourself helps you accomplish the tasks at hand. As Achor shares in his book, a Harvard study that followed 268 men since 1930 found that the men with the most social bonds were happier, more successful in their careers and had higher incomes.

But even with social support, the world still may feel like it is crashing down around you at times. That is when you must step back and change your perspective, reframing your situation in a less dire way—situations rarely are as dire as we initially believe them to be.

You cannot afford to be the shoe salesman who saw the trip to Africa as a waste of time. Become the other shoe salesman. The United States has an out-of-control obesity issue in a population where only 18 percent belong to a fitness facility. The opportunity is there. Time to lace up those shoes.

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