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Is a secret to personal power sitting right under your nose? It was mine. I grew up a negative, cynical kid, and it wasn’t until relative adulthood that I discovered the ability for simple joy to help me find my power in otherwise powerless situations – mostly, but not only, on the job.

Turns out I’m not crazy or stupid (the remnants of that old cynic talking). Research into the power of positive thinking is thrusting happiness into the business and leadership press. It turns out that positive thinking leads to success more than success leads to positive attitudes. The U.K. is even launching a national Happiness Index this year to measure the national well being.

What goes around comes around

I like to dig beneath the data, because when we understand the dynamics producing the information, we gain power over how to bring it intentionally into our lives.

People respond to those around them. This is how we have power to affect others emotionally – and to be affected. To understand how this dynamic affects the business climate, we don’t have to look any farther than the stock market, which fluctuates our portfolios based on some impossible-to-predict-or-measure emotional confidence factor (we don’t fully understand it but we measure it in the Consumer Confidence Index).

Using the market dynamic as an example, it follows that when you inject an attitude of joy and optimism into the group around you, you provide others the opportunity to be infected with your positive outlook and thus infect even more people. This ability to infect and affect others works for good and bad – especially as it impacts those below you in the pecking order. So the question is, what do you want to be coming back at you from those you infect?

Choose wisely.

More Joy

But there’s more to the positive attitude power than even that. The feeling of joy is a clue that you’re doing something – surrounded by something – “onto something” – that lights up your soul. If you treat it like a clue and follow the clues, your joy will lead you to places that bring you even more joy. This is true in our careers as much as it is in our personal lives. If we really let it lead us, it takes us straight to our purpose in life, and in our purpose, we discover power we didn’t know we had that can fuel and support us as we take on the tough work required to change the world.

Of course we are all programmed with lots of “reasons” to ignore the joy clues littering our lives, or otherwise diminish them, to the point where many of us don’t even notice the little energy blip of joy that lights up sometimes when we do things that would bring us joy if we just paid attention.

If you’re on a personal power journey, however, I suggest that you begin to pay attention to those joy blips. Anytime you are faced with a choice on where to put your energy – open this email or that? – go the long way or the short way? – tackle this project or that? – follow the more joyful choice and see what it has to teach you about yourself and what powers you up. Think of it like a life-sized version of Angry Birds. You’re always working to make your next flail at the pigs more effective (i.e., your daily, Sisyphean life) but if you can snag one of those little golden eggs, you get some extra points that pay off in other ways.

Always snag the joy in every activity you can and over time your joy-score is higher.  You’re more positively infecting those around you and – according to those who measure such things – you’re increasing your chances of success. You have nothing to lose except your cynicism and everything to gain. What are you waiting for?

This post originally appeared on the Reclaiming Leadership blog. Check out my new self-service women’s leadership coaching website: InPowerCoaching.com.

Dana Theus

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