What’s Your Story?


On Monday, a book entitled “LIVING WITH JOY” fell onto my very grumpy neighbor’s doorstep from our third floor apartment. Charles thought it might be mine. I must have that “self-help” look written all over me.

How ironic that this rather worn, yet under-read book found its way out of my arms and right smack onto Mr. Happy’s doorstep! It seemed like a sign, so I asked Charles the obvious question… Did he want to read it? Without hesitation, he declared – jaw tight and eyes hawk-like, “Absolutely, not! I’m happy just the way I am!” After a pregnant pause, we both burst into laughter. After all, he was rarely the poster boy for outward joy - even in BBQ season. He chose grumpy and he wore it well. Suddenly, I felt a little awkward about being caught by Charles with a book on “Joy.” I didn’t own “Joy” quite so well myself. I scurried away. In the metro, as fate would have it, there was a brave woman proudly touting a bag that read:

“Negative people need drama like oxygen.

Stay positive, it will take their breath away”.

I hated thinking about (lack of) oxygen in an overcrowded metro. I exhaled long enough to get back to the deeper message. This bag was exhibiting signs of wisdom and hope: Positivity IS a choice and drama is often given far too much airtime. Time to get off my hamster wheel long enough to pay attention to my thoughts and where they had been leading me. How are your thoughts really working for you?, I asked myself.

I could list, with conviction, many unquestionable benefits of adopting a positive attitude in life: health, peace, longevity, satisfying relationships, creativity, learning, trust, etc. And of course I had read the first self-help “bible” by Norman Vincent Peale “The Power of Positive Thinking” back in 1835 or so, and many more recent “classics” on the subject. I taught Stress Management after all – even to cops. In theory, this positive stuff made sense! Yet, I felt uncomfortable carrying the Positivity Torch. Who wants to be seen by colleagues as naïve, gullible, Polyanna or just your basic ostrich in the sand? Not Charles… and seemingly not me. How could positivity live a harmonious life alongside realism?

All truth be told, I don’t like conflict. It’s stressful. And I love to laugh. But I also really appreciate when we have enough safety in a room to name “the elephant”. There is an incredible relief that comes with respectful truth telling – and realization that there is usually more than one truth. How could positivity fit with that? Is that not negative? I was confused. So I turned to two young women I respect for their authenticity and their remarkable ability to “get it” without judgment or churn. They always remind me of what is essential, and I love the synergy that grows when we explore together. We set out on a positivity excavation.

How do we want to feel when we come to work each day? What state will we make “contagious”? Where do we want to spend our time? And with whom? What kind of lunch hour conversations are depleting us or setting us on fire? How can we keep ourselves light and engaged in the workplace, while being highly responsive to our community in transition? 

Each of us renewed our commitment to bring greater positivity to our workplace. Here are some of our takeaways:

  • Make time for continuous learning and sharing
  • Celebrate small wins
  • Identify challenges or pain points and address them with compassion
  • Nurture true collaboration across silos
  • Be inclusive and build on our differences – connecting around what really matters
  • Expand our circle to include more McGillians who also want to co-create a healthy, positive learning and work environment
  • Build learning communities and share our stories.

Do you have a ‘LIGHTEN UP STORY” to share with our My Healthy Workplace community? myhealthyworkplace [at] mcgill.ca (subject: Positively%20Powerful%20Story) (Click here) to submit your positively powerful story.


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