The Positivity Advantage

Throughout generations, human beings have been wired to be aware of negative circumstances and consequences in their environment, in order to survive. Although we no longer watch out for saber-toothed tigers, an evolutionary imprint called “negativity bias” still lingers within us. Said bias causes negative events to have a greater effect on the human psyche, than neutral or positive things. In fact, research has found that it takes about three (but ideally six) positive comments, experiences, or expressions to compensate for the damaging effects of one negative.

While the negativity bias may protect us in situations related to survival, it may cause distress in everyday encounters. I personally experienced such distress when I moved to a new country to start a two-year graduate program. Although I appreciated the dynamic and challenging nature of the program, it was also very tiresome and insecure. The constant pressure for performance was intense, and unlike anything I had experienced before. Over time, negative thoughts caused by the pressure at work started to consume my motivation and mental energy.

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To cope with the stress, I started keeping a gratitude journal, in an attempt to habituate mental positivity. Initially, I used the app 5 Minute Journal. Every morning I would log three things that would make the day great. In the evening, I would scan the last 24 hours for things that had made the day great. The app also allowed me to upload a photo to commemorate each day, which was a nifty little feature!

It didn’t take long before I noticed the difference. Most noticeably, I started to recognize and appreciate the “little things” in life. In the beginning, I was simply looking for things to write about. With time, however, I started noticing all the great things in my environment naturally. And suddenly, I had a lot more than three things to write about!

Although I no longer keep the 5 Minute Journal, the ability to appreciate my surroundings has stayed with me. In a way, I feel like the exercise helped me build a positive, mental foundation. And if I ever have a bad day, I get energy from scrolling through and remembering the entries in the app.

In freedom we soar

About six months after the experience described above, I was reading Shawn Achor’s book “The Happiness Advantage“. Among many great exercises to increase happiness, the book also confirms how it is possible to train your brain, to become more skilled at noticing and focusing on possibilities for personal and professional growth, and seizing opportunities to act on them.

However, what is even more exciting, is that the gratitude exercise I performed has been found to have staying power. Shawn Achor continues to describe how a study found that participants who wrote down three good things each day for only a week were happier and less depressed at the one-month, three-month and six-month follow-ups. Even after stopping the exercise, they remained significantly happier and showed higher levels of optimism.

Although this finding sadly made my experience less unique than I had flattered myself thinking, it hopefully inspires you to try the gratitude exercise yourself. I mean, if one week is really all its takes to create a more positive outlook on life, for the love of god, people, get that gratitude journal going! 😀

Pockets over Purses

I just did an inventory of my closet and realized that I have no less than 11 blazers. Granted, these have been collected over many years, but the finding still shocked me. Especially, considering my boyfriend’s humble wardrobe contained only 5 blazers, despite him wearing a suit to work basically every day.

However, what was even more shocking was the fact that only two of my blazers have – what I call – a “business pocket” (thank you, Massimo Dutti!). You know, that little pocket on the inside of the blazer.

I’ve always been fascinated by all the stuff men seem to fit in this little pocket. It’s like a male Mary Puppins bag, from where men pull the most random stuff. Once, I even witnessed a coworker pull out a bar of chocolate from his business pocket in a meeting. Although he was kind enough to offer me a piece, I was still bummed out by the fact that I did not have a chocola… sorry, business pocket myself.

After starting working full time and attending my fair share of business meetings with clients, I have come to miss the business pocket for other reasons than storing chocolate. You see, in the shipping industry (in which I work), we love business cards. Seriously, if you attend a meeting with someone without getting their business card, it’s like they weren’t even there. Business card, or it didn’t happen!

Which leads me to this question: Where should women keep their business cards, if not in the business pocket? Usually we keep our stuff in a purse, right, but we don’t really carry purses around in the office. Our pants pockets are too small, plus you don’t really want weird shapes and sharp edges down there(!). And carrying them around in your hand definitely seems too desperate.

You see, this is a serious (first) world problem, which has made me invisible in the memory of a lot of potential connections! Therefore I make the following plea to every designer out there, making female blazers: PLEASE give us business pockets so we can lean in and leave our physical mark on a meeting! Thank you.

P.S. Of course I declined the sweaty piece of pocket chocolate from my co-worker… or did I…

Silicon Valley Girl

Marina Mogilko is an entrepreneur and founder of linguatrip.com, a booking site for language courses and language home-stays all over the world. LinguaTrip helps people travel the world and learn languges from native speakers. Marina herself speaks 4 languages, which she learned during “linguatrips”.

Marina founded her first company in 2011 at the young age of 21, while still studying in Russia. In one of her videos she even explains how she in the beginning had to run out of class to take business calls, trying to sound mature and professional.

Although accepted into several major U.S. universities to do an MBA, she instead decided to move to Silicon Valley and chose 500 Startups, a venture capital firm backing promising startups, to grow her business. By 2014, she had grown her initial $300 to revenues reaching $1.5M+, and by 2018 she manages 65+ people internationally.

Marina started her first youtube channel in 2015. Today, she is running no less than three youtube channels, with more than a million followers:

  1. linguamarina, and English teaching side,
  2. Marina Mogilko, her Russian channel; and
  3. Silicon Valley Girl, my personal favourite

On Silicon Valley Girl, Marina discusses the insides to being a young, female entrepreneur. Her enthusiasm and continuous drive is very inspirational and affirmative to watch, especially considering the competitive and male-dominated start-up environment in Silicon Valley.

Click on the links in the text above, if you are interested in learning more about Marina Mogilko or LinguaTrip.