Sustain Virtuous Cycles and Halt Vicious Ones
“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.” — Herm Albright
The little wins each day keep you going and add up over time. The same is true of setbacks.
When things are on a roll, and you are making more progress than dealing with setbacks, you are in a virtuous cycle – a positive loop. When you’re spending more time dealing with setbacks and not making as much progress, you are in a negative loop. The key is to watch for and deal with the setbacks that can take you down a vicious cycle. While you can’t avoid all the setbacks, you can respond more effectively, especially if you watch for them and nip them in the bud.
In the book, The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work , by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, the authors show us how to keep virtuous cycles going and abort vicious cycles early.
Keep Positive Loops Going and Abort the Negative Ones
Pay attention to the day to day, but look to the big picture to see what’s really going on in terms of progress. Teresa and Steven write:
”Focusing on inner work life one day at a time keeps you vigilant, but people make sense of each day’s events against the backstory of the days that preceded it. Myopic focus on a narrow timeframe can blind you to the big picture of what’s really going on with both inner work life and progress. Because inner work life and progress exert mutual influence, the ideal is to keep positive progress loops — virtuous cycles — going as long as possible, and abort negative ones — vicious cycles — as soon as possible.”
Look at the Right Things Over Time
You have to look for key triggers and events over time to notice the true patterns. Teresa and Steven write:
“These patterns are often hard to spot unless you keep looking at the right things over time. In fact, we might never have recognize the progress principles had we not been carefully analyzing daily event descriptions, many of which seemed unimportant in isolation. It was focusing on the day-to-day, and then stepping back to look for patterns that we revealed what was really happening in the teams we studied.”
Watch For and Deal with Setback Events
Recognize the virtuous cycles and stay alert to the negative signs of setbacks. Teresa and Steven write:
”Sustaining virtuous cycles requires recognizing them to begin with. When your private end-of-the-day review indicates a series of days with more progress events than setbacks, and no major signs of negative inner work life, the chances are good that your team is in a virtuous cycle. If your team is fortunate to have one going, it’s important to stay alert for negative events — especially small hassles — that can sour good inner work life or halt progress. The most fundamental step is watching for and dealing with actual setback events.”
In my experience, the old saying, “a stitch in time saves nine” tends to be true, and I like to deal with setbacks as quickly, and effectively as possible, to keep a virtuous cycle going, or get back on one.
Photo by shambhavi singh.