Square Peg Round Hole
Career Development

Can a Positive Mental Attitude Make Your Job ‘Suck Less?’

“Positive thinking cannot help you do anything but it can help you do everything better than negative thinking can.” Zig Ziglar

Ever wonder why some people succeed in their careers and others do not? Success tends to follow those who offer value to people. The most successful people, usually do not sit around stressing about what direction they should take. Instead, they tend to take action.

This is not a comprehensive rule in itself, of course. As nearly anyone who has ever worked has recognized, there is such a thing as working jobs that do not lead to the kind of advancement one truly wants. However mindset is crucial because it drives attitude, and attitude drives behavior. In this way, mindset is the origin of our destiny.

Aside from an ability to attain practical knowledge, one must apply incoming knowledge to real life events in order to truly grow. The winning lawyer is not the one who knows the most law but rather, the one who has best the prepared case.1

Just as lawyers benefit from preparation, so do those who make plans in other aspects of their lives. Most employers and clients want someone who is professional, courteous, and driven to master their craft.

Much of the old wisdom of classic personal development gurus like Zig Ziglar, Napoleon Hill, and Norman Vincent Peale proves to be timeless. Aside from some outdated advice on where to source job opportunities (the newspaper isn’t the same resource it used to be), it turns out to be directly applicable to an individual’s ability and responsibility to progress forward in their lives and careers.

As the men above mention, generation after generation has found the development of a positive mental attitude (PMA) to be a wellspring of positive potential.2 Everybody knows that this is basically true, however, how many understand it and are able to truly benefit from this wisdom by applying it to life? Where do you stand?

Know Thy Self

“If the position you seek is worth having, it is worth going after with care.” Napoleon Hill

We must have an idea of why we choose to participate in our vocation in order to possess the enthusiasm that it takes to succeed. We must also be honest with ourselves in order to be honest with others.

Are you a proper ‘fit’ in your job? Napoleon Hill outlines the concept in a career or vocation in the following excerpt:

“The characteristics, abilities, and capacities that make you happy and successful in one environment may create an opposite reaction in another. You have a tendency to do well, what you want to do. You are called a square peg in a round hole when you work or engage in activities that do not come naturally, that are inwardly repellent. In such an unhappy situation, you can change your position and place yourself in an environment that is pleasing to you.”3 

Have you ever been a square peg in a round hole? I know I have. Maybe you hated a job you had because it felt like a dead end. If you are shoving the peg into the wrong-shaped hole every day, you will continue to fail no matter how competitive you are nor how hard you try.

We all know that career advancement requires stepping stones to move forward. A job can only suck if employees views it as a dead-end, or if they are severely out of alignment with their strengths. A shy person is likely to feel like a square peg in a round hole on the floor of a loud, energetic sales team, for example.

Accentuate the Positive

Negativity bias observes that negative-self talk comes much more naturally to most people. Some may refer to this general idea as your ‘lizard brain.’4 It is a sinister force that exists in the same space as our self-doubt and pessimism. Luckily we have the force of PMA, if we choose to utilize it.

Most people succumb to negativity bias and they allow the negative to drive their assessment of circumstances. And as Henry David Thoreau famously said, “most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

Negativity exists, but we get to choose where we direct our focus. This ability is ours for the taking. The point of PMA is not to ignore the negative with naiveté. The point of generating PMA is to recognize and emphasize the positive. An occasional celebration of positive never hurts either.

No matter who you are, if you are working, you are gaining experience and skills. If you are not working, any job will help you move forward. Just about everyone starts at the bottom in their career and they move up over time.

If you are truly unhappy and must move on, you should approach your desired new job with care and position yourself to transition. The more positive your attitude, the better chance you have at keeping the negativity bias in check.

The PMA Advantage

“Positive thinking is simply a decision to expect good instead of bad. Possibility instead of defeat. Life instead of death. You don’t deny the negative. You just don’t give it power.” Zig Ziglar

We must know who we are from a strengths standpoint in order to learn and adapt over time. As we do, we better position ourselves with each stone we step upon. When we do this, we can move forward with great interest and enthusiasm which will ultimately lead to growth.

A habit of practicing PMA gives us the fuel we need for this effort.

Sometimes negative thoughts can be justified by circumstance. But a pattern of negative thinking is never justified and always destructive. Negative thinkers will often say things like, “well, what else am I supposed to think.” Or “to think otherwise would be just plain, stupid.” But this is flawed thinking.

Positive thinking should not replace all negative thought. You cannot have positive if you do not know and understand negative. Positive thinking is merely a decision, or ultimately, a habit that overcomes the negativity bias by directing one’s focus toward the positive.

No divine force says you need to view anything a certain way. This is the great wisdom in the literature on PMA and it is healthy to engage in it periodically just as it is healthy to exercise the physical body. If we protect ourselves against the sinister effects of negative thinking, the benefits are infinite.


References and Further Reading

1 Napoleon Hill wrote about career advice in his chapter on ‘organized planning,’ in his most famous book, ‘Think and Grow Rich.’ Organized planning is a self-guided behavior that can transform lives if attempted and perfected over time.

2 One great resource on this is the book ‘Achieving Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude.’ Napoleon Hill and CEO W. Clement Stone provide an exploration of the power of positivity in depth. Influencers like Zig Ziglar also spoke and wrote about how central positive thinking is to human motivation and therefore, success.

3This exerpt is taken from Napoleon Hill’s ‘Achieving Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude.”

4 Many authors have referred to this concept of a “lizard brain.” A good summary is in Seth Godin’s Chapter on ‘The Resistance’ in his book ‘Linchpin: Are You Indispensable.’ This is an outstanding book on how to succeed in a modern workplace by offering supreme value to your company.

Success! You're on the list.

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