‘Oh great, they’ve sent me Pollyanna’ said my boss in September 1988.
It wasn’t meant as a compliment.
Pollyanna was a character, played by Hayley Mills in the 1960 film of the same name. In the film, she’s relentlessly cheerful and she plays a game called ‘the glad game’, where she encourages those around her to think about what they are glad about, rather than sad about. She’s full of optimism.
My boss levelled this at me, and he thought that with his tireless negativity he could knock it out of me. He was a careworn employee relations expert, and I was on my Graduate Trainee scheme in ‘Personnel’. His view was that people come to work for money, they dislike authority, and they are inherently lazy.
‘People are sent to try us, Vanessa, that’s all you need to know!’
In 1989 my graduate scheme suddenly came to an end, as the business was bought out and I was unceremoniously told that I was being made redundant. I lived in London, I paid more in rent than I earned, and I was given a week’s notice and no redundancy pay.
It was tough to take, but I bounced back!
Fast forward to my 50th birthday party in 2016 where I was surrounded by my family and friends. I made a speech to thank them for coming to my party, but really it was to thank them for sticking by me through thick and thin. I was half a century old, so I wanted to take stock. I talked about my childhood, my school years, my loves and losses and my work. I reminisced about all the good and bad things that had happened to me, how grateful I was for all that it had taught me and what a great time I’d had. I was full of gratitude.
Still the same old Pollyanna!
In 2019, after 30-plus years in the profession, I set up my shiny new HR business, giving it the name ‘Imago’, which represents the transformation from the chrysalis to the butterfly. This was a very exciting time, and I was full of anticipation about how it would all turn out. I was nervous but I stayed positive and kept my focus on the things I could do and what I had to offer.
It went well.
Fast forward to 2020!
This year, more than ever, I’ve had to pull on my Pollyanna pants!
I’ve worked, zoomed, and walked through my days. I haven’t hugged my mum and dad since February and there has been suffering around me. It’s been hard to look for the gladness when there is so much to be sad about
But deep down I’ve still got this theory that being positive has massive benefits. Thankfully, I’m not the only one who thinks this is the case. Research, time and time again, has shown the pre-conditions for well-being stem from positive thinking.
So, in true Pollyanna style, if I share what works for me, hopefully it will help you, as we close-out this difficult year.
- Let go of negative thoughts – ditch them, throw them away, they’re no use to you
- Keep the past where it belongs and face forwards
- Focus on the possibilities and not the obstacles – think about how you can make it work
- Let people know how you feel and what you think – just keep talking
- Don’t blame others – forgive them instead
- Play your favourite music
- Be grateful for what you have in your life – do a stock take
And every day, instead of thinking but ‘what if it all goes wrong’, reframe this into thinking but ‘what if it all goes right?’