Identity Shift: 4 Steps to Transforming Into a More Positive Contributor

Identity Shift: 4 Steps to Transforming into a More Positive Contributor

It’s not always easy to stay positive. Everyone is entitled to feeling the emotions they feel. Anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t doing justice to the fact that people have complex needs. When we look at others, we shouldn’t be so quick to judge if they don’t always seem positive or in a good mood. For yourself, however, you should set the bar higher, because the only person you can change is you. Becoming a more positive contributor is critical if you want to advance your career and even grow to be a person that others want to follow one day.

It’s silly to think that your technical skills alone should be enough for you to become a leader. How many times have you met someone who was brilliant, but you didn’t want to be around because of their negative attitude? Positive people attract others, but you don’t need to do much to begin changing yourself for the better.

4 Steps to Transforming Into a More Positive Person

  1. Develop Self-Awareness
  2. Assess your Needs
  3. Decide to Change
  4. Shift your Identity

Let me start off with a disclaimer. I’m not suggesting you stop being who you are. I’m not suggesting that you have to be a happy-go-lucky type of person either. There are a ton of different personality types and all of them make up the fabric of our societies and cultures. Positivity isn’t about not being you. Instead, it’s like telling someone to eat healthy or to exercise. It doesn’t change who you are, but it makes you a healthier and more well-rounded person.


Step 1: Your Self-Awareness

Anytime you want to make a change in your life, self-awareness is going to be your starting place. People that have a high level of self-awareness tend to be able to develop their best qualities. Likewise, they tend to be able to get a handle of their vices and bad habits.

1.1: Am I Negative?

The first question you want to answer is: “Am I a negative person?” It’ll be really hard for you to answer this yourself, so you may want to find someone who’s close enough to you that they would be willing to give you an honest answer. Chances are you’re not 100% negative, but you may find that in certain environments or situations you tend to lean towards becoming negative. Figure out what those circumstances are and try to find the patterns.

1.2: Find the Contributing Factors

External factors are a big part of why we end up becoming negative. Some of these may be due to medical issues such as chronic pain or depression (which should be properly treated). Other times it’s much simpler factors such as the lack of sleep, poor diet, or too much stress. You’ll need to really look at yourself to see what might be contributing to your lack of positivity. I know for myself, after a while of not exercising, I end up just losing the desire to be as positive as I usually am.

1.3: Just a Bad Habit

The last point on the topic of self-awareness is to realize that sometimes negativity can just be a bad habit that you’ve developed. You may be generally a positive person, but with your siblings or with your co-workers, you fall into a bad habit of pulling people down. In these cases, you simply need a reminder and it can come from this self-reflection.


Step 2: Assessing Your Needs

I like the way Michael Hyatt put it when discussing this point asking: What need are you attempting to meet by complaining? More often than not, when you turn negative, it’s because you’re either consciously or unconsciously trying to accomplish something. I’ll go over a few common reasons people complain or become negative, but it’s up to you to really see what needs you’re trying to fill.

2.1: The Need to Connect

One of the most common reasons for complaining is to connect with others. It’s the quickest and easiest way to make a bond with someone, because we automatically have sympathy for someone who is complaining (although too much will just cause us to be annoyed). This is bad, though, because this type of bond is really weak. You’ll hear people fulfilling this need by complaining about the weather, their jobs, or even their spouses. Watch yourself to see if you ever do this, and if you do, try to find more positive ways to connect with others.

2.2: The Need for Significance

Another very common reason for becoming negative is to fulfill a need for significance. You’ve probably seen this a million times when someone asks “How’s work?” and the answer is “It’s crazy, I’m way too busy.” I know I’ve done this before, and I only now realize that it’s because I want people to think that I’m doing really important work. It was something subconscious that I’m actively trying to change now that I’m aware.

2.3: The Need for Drama

The third common reason I’ll mention (and there are many more) is that some people just love to be in the drama. They want to complain and be negative to be part of a problem situation. It’s a nasty habit, but you may find it fun to dish it out on a co-worker, your boss, or even a friend. If you’re the type of person that needs this excitement then you really should try to find another venue to fulfill it. This is one of the worst types of negativity because it spreads to others and causes long-term damage to reputations, initiatives, and morale. There’s a huge difference between being critical in order to fix something and complaining in order to create drama. Make sure you’re always sticking with the former.


Step 3: Decide to Change

As I mentioned at the start of the post, being negative isn’t a defining part of your personality, it’s a learned behavior (and only in rare cases is it caused by a mental health issue which this post isn’t intended to address).  Like any bad habit, deciding to change your behavior is where you need to start. It’s not a long process either.

3.1: Make it Muscle Memory

You’ve made the decision and the hard part is following through. The goal is to make positivity an automatic behavior. This takes watching yourself to make sure you’re making progress. At the start, you’ll catch yourself slipping and that’s a good thing.

In my own journey, I’ve caught myself mid-sentence sometimes, while other times I only realized after I had walked away from a conversation. Each time I realized what I was doing, however, it made me more aware and helped me the next time. While I’m nowhere near perfect, it’s starting to become more automatic, requiring less thinking and effort. You’ll go through the same process, and hopefully a lot faster than me.

3.2: Don’t Fake It

I caution to note that becoming more positive isn’t about faking positivity. So make sure in your decision to change you’re not just glossing over your needs. If you need to vent or grieve, find the right channel to do it. Fake positivity is one of the easiest things to notice, and it will make you look inauthentic.

We’re talking about complaining here, not dealing with complex emotions. This fine line is where people end up getting confused and where positivity gets a bad wrap. I will say, however, that being upset isn’t justification for being negative, but pretending everything is okay is also not right. Go back to the first two steps and self-analyze to see what’s really going on if you’re in this situation.

3.3: The Real Benefit You Get

Deciding to change gets you so many benefits that it’s worth mentioning. In general, studies have shown that people who take a more positive attitude in life are both happier and healthier. Not only that, you’ll attract people to you who look for your leadership during the good and bad times. Even if you don’t want to be in a leadership positive, you’ll be a more influential person if you learn to avoid complaining and dragging others down with negativity.


Step 4: Shift your Identity

Your self-identity is so important, and I can’t stress this enough. If you tell yourself, “I’m just a negative person,” you’ve already boxed yourself in—and for no reason at all. Have you ever seen someone break out of an identity they’ve made for themselves? It’s not going to happen. You have to shift your thoughts about yourself before you can change.

4.1: Call Yourself Positive

Try saying this right now, “I’m a positive person.” Just saying that will make you start thinking about examples that prove that identity. Alternately, you might be thinking of examples that disprove it. Either way, it’s a start, right? It got you thinking about yourself and it opened up your internal battle with this identity.

4.2: Affirmation comes before Change

The reason I told you to say you’re a positive person is because you can’t become something unless you affirm that you are just that. A great example I’ve heard is about parenthood. When your child is born, you don’t say “I hope to be a mother.” Instead, on minute one, you say “I’m a mother now!” You have no idea how to be a parent at that point. Heck, when my first daughter was born I couldn’t believe they let us take her home because we had no idea what we were doing.

The point here is that by affirming your identity, you force yourself to live up to it. If you say you’re a great employee, you’re going to work hard to be that. If you say you’re a leader, the same goes. Why wouldn’t this apply to saying you’re positive?

4.3: Don’t Underestimate Yourself

You may have the desire to fall back to calling yourself a negative person, but coarse correct right away. You’re not a negative person. There, I said it. You really aren’t. You may at times not feel like being an inspiration to others, but that’s normal. Sometimes life gets overwhelming and you need to vent to deal with it all. That’s not a step backward, so don’t think you’re not making progress. If you’ve read this far then you’ve got what it takes already to be committed, so don’t underestimate yourself.


To a More Positive You

You’ll notice what you’re watching out for. If you’re looking for negativity, you’ll notice things that will make you negative. It’s like when you buy a new car and you start seeing the same model everywhere. Nothing changed except what stands out to you.

There are a lot of points here but just remember that you’ll eventually become whatever you call yourself. Don’t underestimate your capacity for change. If others can do it, so can you.

For a list of reasons why a positive attitude is important, take a look at my previous post: It’s up to You: 3 Ways a Positive Attitude Will Get You Noticed.


Credit: Feature image by Freepik

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