P is for People Who Spread Positivity During Their Time On The Planet  

People can choose to spread positivity or negativity during their time on the planet. The choice they make has consequences for both themselves and other people.

People who take the first route are often positive realists. They have a positive attitude but are also good at reading reality. They want to encourage and help other people.

Different people do this in different ways. Some aim to provide others with positive support. Some share positive strategies that people can apply in their own ways to achieve success. Some aim to share positive solutions to challenges.

Positive realists are pragmatists. They often study what works, simplify what works – but in a profound way – and share what works. They then pass on practical tools that people can use in their own lives and work.

Such people believe it is more effective to encourage people rather than discourage them. They are prepared to take a stand, however, if people hurt others. They then offer positive alternatives about how such people could choose to behave in the future.

Positive people believe in the together approach rather than the tribal approach. When faced by conflicts, they refuse to go the win-lose route. They aim to find – as far as possible – win-win solutions to challenges.

Looking back, can you think of a situation when you aimed to spread positivity? You may have done this by offering people support, sharing positive strategies or finding positive solutions to challenges.

What did you do then to spread positivity? How did you translate this approach into action? What happened as a result of taking these steps?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the past when you aimed to spread positivity.

Describe the specific things you did to spread positivity.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of taking these steps.

Developing Your
Own Positivity

People who are positive love to give to others. They find this to be both rewarding and stimulating.

Bearing this in mind, how do they get their own strength to give to people? Some follow the guidelines described by Barbara Fredrickson.

Barbara showed how positive emotions can improve our lives. Twenty years of research into such emotions culminated in her book Positivity. Here are some of the findings from the book.

People who have positive emotions in a ratio of 3:1 in relation to negative emotions are more likely to flourish.

The key is to increase the amount of positive emotions we have in relation to negative emotions.

We need a ratio of 3 to 1 to lift us, increase our resilience and flourish. For many people the ratio is 2 to 1. For some it is 1 to 1 or less.

For individuals, marriages and business teams, flourishing – doing remarkably well – comes with positivity ratios above 3 to 1. 

By contrast, those who don’t overcome their depression, couples who fail in their marriages, and business teams that are unpopular and unprofitable each have ratios in the gutter, below 1 to 1.

What is Positivity?

Barbara explains that positivity is more than simply being happy. It certainly isn’t putting on a smiling face to grin and bear things.

Positivity is based on being true to ourselves. It embodies gratitude, love, playfulness, curiosity and adventure. These emotions trigger each other and create an upward spiral. They ‘broaden and build’, helping us to make breakthroughs and bring new things into being.

Such emotions provide the basis for creativity, problem solving and even evolution. They enable us to open our hearts and minds. Negativity, on the other hand, closes down our ability to think, create and grow. Barbara explains this in the following way.

Positivity consists of the whole range of positive emotions – from appreciation to love, from amusement to joy, from hope to gratitude, and then some.

The term is purposely broad. It includes the positive meanings and optimistic attitudes that trigger positive emotions as well as the open minds, tender hearts, relaxed limbs, and soft faces they usher in. 

It even includes the long-term impact that positive emotions have on your character, relationships, communities and environments.

And the new scientific discoveries about the importance of positivity are stunning.

How to check your own Positivity Ratio? Below is a link to the Positivity Test. This invites you to focus on your emotions today. Barbara and others recommend that you try it over a period of a month to get a realistic reading.


People Can Raise
Their Positivity Ratio

So how do you raise your positivity and reach the tipping point? Barbara maintains it is a lot like physical health. If we eat good food this helps to nourish us. We also need a daily diet of psychological health.

She lists ten forms of positivity that can nourish our soul. People can do simple things that embody some of these qualities. Eventually they will accumulate enough positivity that creates an upward spiral.

This can take them beyond the tipping point. So it can be useful to develop habits that embrace some of the following forms of positivity.

As mentioned earlier, different people spread positivity in different ways. Let’s look at how some do this by pursuing the themes of positive support, strategies and solutions.

Positive Support

Some people aim to help others by providing positive support. Penny Brohn was somebody who took this path and created a remarkable legacy.

She helped to give birth to The Bristol Cancer Help Centre. The work done there has helped many people to develop their inner strength and improve the quality of lives. It is now called Penny Brohn Cancer Care.

As Dr Rosy Thomson says in her book Loving Medicine, the Centre was born out of pain. Penny discovered a cancerous lump on her left breast in the autumn of 1979. An operation under local anaesthetic produced bruising, bleeding and left part of the lump behind.

Doctors advised an immediate mastectomy, but she felt that full recovery depended on more than amputating her breast. Penny became convinced that her illness was the result of her life-style. It was a disease of her whole being, rather than being confined to any single part of her body.

She eventually met Pat Pilkington, Canon Chris Pilkington and Alec Forbes, a physician. The four people combined their talents to open the Centre in 1980. The Centre was then based on three key ideas. 

The body, mind, emotions and spirit are interrelated. 

The improvement in the health of any of these will improve the health of the whole person. 

The belief that where there’s a will there’s a way.

These ideas were translated into certain guiding principles, which included: 

The Centre believes in a holistic philosophy. 

The Centre encourages patients to assume some responsibility for their own health. 

The Centre teaches and practises a life-style designed to prevent cancer occurring or recurring. 

The Centre educates and informs patients about safe and gentle therapies they can use to counteract disease and enhance health. 

The Centre is a non-profit-making organisation that is available to everyone.

Here is a video that describes some of the ways that the Centre helps people. You can discover more via the following link.


Positive Strategies

Some people aim to help others by offering positive strategies that people can follow in their own ways. These strategies will differ, of course, depending on the specific field.

Paul Hawken, for example, has a long history of helping people to build on their strengths and make their best contributions to the planet. Here is an overview of his career so far.


Paul began by working as a press co-ordinator with Martin Luther King’s team in Selma, Alabama. Later he was seized by Ku Klux Klan members, but escaped due to FBI surveillance and intervention.

Whilst continuing to work for human rights, he moved on to creating several ethical companies. Some of these were the first natural food companies in the United States that relied solely on sustainable agricultural methods.

Paul founded Erewhon, which was based in Boston, Massachusetts. This focused exclusively on organically produced fruits, vegetables, dairy, beans, eggs, juices, and condiments.

By 1973, Erewhon had two mills, two rail cars and warehouses on both coasts. It had contracts with farmers in 37 states on 56,000 acres to supply its four stores and more than 3,000 wholesale accounts.

Paul then created Smith & Hawken. This was a $75 million catalogue and retail company, specialising in garden and horticultural products. It is credited with changing the ‘landscape’ of gardening in America by introducing European tools, techniques, varieties and literature.

Paul’s Books:
Sharing The Know-How

Paul’s work as a practitioner – rather than just a theorist – has led to him producing many books. These include four U.S. best sellers The Next Economy, Growing a Business, The Ecology of Commerce and Blessed Unrest.

He also co-authored with Amory Lovins the influential Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution. This has been referred to by several heads of state including President Bill Clinton, who called it one of the five most important books in the world today.

Growing A Business

Paul reached millions of budding entrepreneurs through his American Public Television series Growing A Business. He advises people to develop their talents and produce quality. Even in a recession, customers will pay for quality products delivered in a quality way. So how can you create a successful business?

As we know, it can be useful to follow some of the eternal rules. First, build on your strengths. Do what you do best and do it brilliantly. Second, find sponsors – employers and customers – who will hire you for doing what you do best. Third, help them to achieve success.

How to make this happen? Let’s explore some of the ideas Paul described in Growing A Business back in the 1980s. Many of these ideas are commonplace today.

Recreate Something
That Has Been Lost

People are attracted to nostalgia: so recreate something which they believe has been lost forever. The friendly small town bank; the reliable mail-order firm; the honest garage; the quality ice-cream shop; the traditional cheese store; the aromatic coffee shop; the company that fixes mistakes without complaint.

Be honest, deliver quality and make people feel special. Paul also believes in the following philosophy.

Remember that in business you are never trying to ‘beat’ the competition.

You are trying to give your customer something other than what they are receiving from the competition.

It is a waste of time and energy trying to beat the competition because the customer doesn’t care about that rivalry.

Too Much Money Is
Worse Than Too Little

Businesses suffer from a lack of imagination, not capital, says Paul. Too much money tends to replace creativity. Companies without money are hungry; they must dream, imagine and improvise.

Companies awash with money try to buy solutions. They lavish vast amounts on consultants, lawyers, clever accountants, publicity agents and marketing studies. Cash and creativity are both necessary, but make sure you balance them properly.

Entrepreneurs Are Risk-Avoiders

The common wisdom holds that entrepreneurs love to take risks, says Paul, but that’s mostly hype. Entrepreneurs are like mountain climbers. They set clear goals, clarify their strategy and anticipate ways to tackle problems.

On-lookers think the mountaineer is gambling, but the climber would risk more by not following their dream. Once the entrepreneur has seen how to create a product or service to meet demand, much of what the outsider perceives as risk in the situation is erased. On the other hand, risk-avoiders do not always make good entrepreneurs.

Business Tests Character

Business teaches you a lot about yourself, says Paul. He explains this in the following way.

The moment you enter the world of business – as a provider – not merely as a consumer – you will have a hundred opportunities a day to act beneficially or wrongly, to deal with people fairly or otherwise, to enhance your social environment or pollute it.

You will face split- second decisions: to be honest or to lie; to deliver quality or to cut corners; to care for your customers or to give shoddy service. Business continually tests character.

Business Will
Always Have Problems

Paul once searched for magic solutions. Providing he read more books by business gurus, he felt, one day he would find business nirvana. Enlightenment would make all his problems disappear. The truth hit him one sunny autumn afternoon.

I had my nirvana, all right, but it was the opposite of what I had been seeking. On that pretty afternoon the actual truth finally struck me: I would always have problems.  

In fact, problems signify that the business is in a rapid learning phase. The revelation was liberating. I couldn’t understand why other people hadn’t told me this earlier.

Problems create either energy or paralysis, says Paul. Good managers make problems interesting and mobilise peoples’ energies to find solutions.

Bad managers present problems as threats, criticisms or things to be ignored. They issue memos, blame others or say it is the customer’s fault. Get used to problems, says Paul, they are an eternal part of everyday business-life.

Paul has gone on to write books about how we can care for the planet. dedicated his life to caring for people and the planet. In 2009 he was invited to give the Commencement Address to students at the University of Portland. Here are some extracts from his address.

You Are Brilliant,
And The Earth Is Hiring

There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring.

The earth couldn’t afford to send recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint.

When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data.

But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.

What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world …

You join a multitude of caring people. No one knows how many groups and organizations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights, and more.

We have done great things and we have gone way off course in terms of honoring creation. You are graduating to the most amazing, stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation.

Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a better boss.

The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hope only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful.

This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it. 

Paul has since published Drawdown which outlines 100 solutions to reverse global warming. Below is a link to the website. Here is the video of Paul talking about the book he wrote called Blessed Unrest.


Positive Solutions 

Some people aim to help others by focusing on finding positive solutions. Different people do this in different ways.

Roger Fisher, for example, devoted much of his life to helping people to manage conflicts. Known for his books on negotiation such as Getting To Yes, his obituary in the Economist described him as a lawyer, teacher and peacemaker. Here is an excerpt from that article.

Roger Fisher was really a fixer. He would relax by mending the plumbing, or laying brick terraces at the summer house he loved in Martha’s Vineyard. But that was tiddler stuff.

At breakfast he would scan the New York Times, looking for bigger problems he could fix: arms control, hostage-taking, the Middle East.  Over dinner the conversation would be sorting out Vietnam, or ending the war in El Salvador. 

At his 80th birthday party, most other guests gone, he was found deep in a discussion of peace between Arabs and Israelis. As long as there were disputes in the world and energy in his body, he was going to help resolve them.

Roger Fisher

Roger’s approach was different from that of many lawyers. He focused on creating alignment rather than seeing negotiation as an adversarial process. He believed the keys were for people:

To sit down together side-by-side;

To focus on the job to do, which was to find a solution;

To work together to solve the problem.

Roger created a positive atmosphere based on respect. He believed in saying to people:

We have a shared concern here. Let’s work together. How do you see it? 


Roger served in the Second World War as a weather reconnaissance officer. But he was strongly affected by the loss of his roommate and many friends.

During his service he also flew morning flights over Japan. This was before the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. According to people who knew him, the memory of these flights – and the unnecessary deaths of many people in war – weighed on him.

Although building a great reputation in Academia, he threw himself into applying the ideas in practice. This involved him working in Europe on the Marshall Plan.

Later he contributed to seeking peace in the Middle East. This involved working on President Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem and the subsequent summit at Camp David. He played a significant part in helping to release the United States citizens taken hostage in Iran in 1981.

Roger helped to resolve the war between Ecuador and Peru. He also spent considerable time in South Africa, helping to bring together people to end Apartheid. 


Roger believed it was important for people to build on what they had in common. He taught law students to focus on alignment. This was uncommon in law, where people often took adversarial positions.

He also believed it was vital for the parties involved to show respect to each other as human beings. Wherever possible, it was important to separate the problem from the people.

Providing you looked at what each of the people wanted, it was then often possible to solve the problem. The difficulty was that the solvable problem had often become complicated by the personal feelings – such as anger and disappointment – becoming wrapped in the problem.

Getting To Yes

Roger’s work became widely known as a result of the book he co-wrote with William Ury, Getting To Yes. Since its publication in 1981, it has sold many millions of copies.

The book shows how negotiators can find solutions by following five principles. These are:

To separate the people from the problem; 

To focus on interest, not positions;

To invent options for mutual gain;

To insist on using objective criteria;

To know your BATNA (Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement).

In the following video Roger describes how he believes it is important for people to get to know each other and build rapport. People can then build on what they have in common rather than be adversaries.

Roger helped many people to take these steps in their lives. He used his skills to help them to find solutions to challenges and build a better world.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation in which you may aim to spread positivity? This could be in your personal or professional life.

You may want to offer positive support to people. Alternatively, you may want to share positive strategies that work in a particular field or focus on positive solutions. You will then aim to translate these plans into action.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may aim to spread positivity.

Describe the specific things you can do then to spread positivity.

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of taking these steps.

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