Positive Loop

Posted by Dr Catherine Rutland on 19/02/2019

I have come more and more to realise that the people around you and your state of mind are what ultimately determine how life goes. Some may say it is purely your state of mind but I add the people around you as they can have such a bearing on the wider picture.

Think about some of the best holidays you have ever had or one of the best meals out. Have you ever tried to do something similar, or even the same, again, but either it was worse or better than last time you were there? Even if you went on your own, you couldn’t have avoided people. I have recently returned from a really great ski holiday, from a place I have been many many times before. Yes, the snow was amazing, yes, it was my birthday and Christmas whilst I was there, but on reflection it was the people around me that made it as it was. To isolate my state of mind from the influence they had would have been very difficult.

There are the very obvious people that influence our lives but sometimes it is the unexpected encounters that can surprise us. This can be as much the case in our working lives as in our personal lives.

Of course, in our working lives the tendency can be to focus on the difficult people, difficult patients, and difficult customers. We all know that these people can disproportionately affect our state of mind. Putting our interaction with them to one side can be a challenge even if we are surrounded by positivity from the other people around us. This is where your team become so important. They need to remind us of the positivity around us and how most interactions during a day will be positive and with appreciative patients. It’s a bit like having amazing snow, falling over in it, finding everyone else has carried on going and no one is there to help you get yourself back up, find your skis and get you going again. Without support, whatever your state of mind, it is going to significantly alter the outcome.

Negative thoughts seem to go into a negative feedback loop which often involves no action and can be difficult to break. In my mind that’s when other people come in. They are there to break the loop and stop you spinning.

Try and think about a random comment or piece of information given to you by a patient or colleague that led to you acting in a positive way. That positive might have been a holiday destination, a different way of training in your chosen sport, a great restaurant or embarking on some training that alters your practice. Unlike the negative interactions, for some reason we often won’t dwell on these, we will just choose whether to act or not, or it may just pop into our heads months later when we need the information.

All those little positives can end up having a big impact, if we allow them to. Maybe we should throw them all in and create a positive feedback loop? We will sit in team meetings and discuss what’s gone wrong, or complaints received and the learning required from them but do we raise the positive comments and feedback made? My team have a great habit of forwarding on any positive feedback they receive (GDPR respected of course!) to the whole team. Regardless of whether it is for the individual or the team it creates positive emotion, reminds us all that we are appreciated and our roles are worthwhile. A bit of team cheerleading in my experience is no bad thing!

Look at who is around you in your professional life and think about the impact they have on you. We don’t always have a choice as to who we work with. Are they people who will help break your negative loops? In fact, add to that, do you let them? To be honest, seeing someone in a negative loop can be a bit challenging and scary, it can take a fair bit of courage to try and ‘infiltrate’ the loop. As with all things, open communication is the key to ‘inviting’ people to help you break those loops, believe me, as a team you can learn who is best at helping who. It isn’t necessarily obvious.

Make sure as well that people don’t clamp down on your positive thoughts, you have a right to be positive!

If you can surround yourself with people who will help you break your negative loops and accentuate your positive needless to say your state of mind will be better, and actually, so probably will be the state of the people around you!

This article is kindly reproduced with permission of The Dentist Magazine February 2018