Here is how to be positive as the leader of your nonprofit organization

If you’ve been dealt another blow like staff shortages, funding cuts, dealing with disciplinary action, or general overwhelm, you might start to feel negativity wash over you.

You know that negativity can spiral if you don’t catch it so you might be wondering:

Questing how to stay positive is the theme of my clients this week. They want to know how to stay positive and motivated, and move towards their goals when they feel tired, overwhelmed and challenged. Another client is in the process of starting a new program and isn’t sure if she can pull it off within the deadline. Self-doubt has crept in and is robbing my client of her confidence.

One client is working on a certification process. She is studying for the next level exam. Yet, time is already running away from her. She is quickly becoming stuck in not-enoughness.

Heck, I preach positivity too. I am constantly working with my clients to help them see the positive, be confident, and believe it is possible. However, how do you do that in the face of so much challenge?

The secret isn’t to focus on what we are experiencing.
It’s to focus on what we are thinking.
A third client was dealt a nasty blow at work. She’s feeling insecure about her future. It’s hard not to be negative and sarcastic. “Why bother trying so hard?”

The message we hear is to keep our chin up.
Social media posts, motivational books and well-meaning peers tell us:

It is not what you see that makes up your reality but what you think about what you see. We all experience similar events but react to them differently.
You can learn to focus on the positive

Think about the thought accompanying each of the above parents’ emotions.
Suppose you have a message to call your kids’ teacher because of missing assignments.

  • The angry parent has thoughts something like, “That little $#!t.”

If you tell yourself the day started bad, is getting worse and going to be a gong show, guess what you’ll experience?
Our inner dialogue controls our outer experience.If I tell myself leading my team is hard, I will notice all the hard things I experience daily. Our inner voices are powerful. They impact our emotions and our experiences. The messages we tell ourselves about our events create our reality of the event.

The secret is getting control of what is going on in your head.

You can use The Inner Guidance Cycle to get control of your thoughts.
Here’s how 👇🏻

1) Pause
Step back from what you are doing, take a deep breath, or grab a piece of paper to write on.
You’ll never shift your thoughts if you stay stuck on the hamster wheel.

2) Ponder
Start becoming aware of your inner dialogue.
When you are frustrated, unenthusiastic or cynical, start to notice what is happening in your head.
Notice your thoughts. Becoming aware of the constant stream of thoughts helps to manage them. You’ll likely notice a running commentary of your day going on in your mind. Most times, it’s rambling on, and you aren’t controlling what you are thinking.

Try consciously listening to your inner dialogue rather than having it run in your subconscious. The more you notice it, the more aware you will become of what you are telling yourself.

3) Pivot
Start to shift your thoughts by examining them.

  • Is my thought true?

Perhaps you think, “This is the worst thing that could happen.”
Is it? My guess is it could be worse.

Maybe you repeatedly say, “I don’t know if I can pull this off.”
Notice how that allows doubt to creep in.

4) Proceed
Once you consciously shift your thoughts to the ones you want to be thinking, you can get back to “work.”

Shifting thoughts isn’t necessarily easy. It takes practice and discipline.

For example, changing “I don’t know if I can pull this off” to “I can do this” isn’t a one-and-done process. However, when you slip back to “I don’t know if I can pull this off …

  • PONDERING about falling back to old thinking patterns, you may identify a trigger, value or expectation that you may revert.

You can learn more about The Inner Guidance Cycle in
Mastering Confidence: Discover your leadership potential by awakening your inner guidance system

Positivity isn’t a magical pill. It’s work. It’s choosing what you think, what you focus your thoughts on and learning to manage your thoughts. That process all takes willpower.

Willpower is also known as self-control or discipline. Using your willpower to train and control your thoughts requires the same energy you would use to resist the donut and stick to your workout schedule.

It’s also the same energy you use to stick to responding to an email you’ve been avoiding, staying focused on the annual report despite your cell phone notification calling you or biting your tongue when someone irks you.

Willpower is a powerful tool for leaders. It’s willpower that helps you stay positive, productive and poised.

If you want o learn more about using willpower in your leadership, check out the Willpower Essentials course here.

Shifting thoughts is a lifelong process. It’s called Inner Work.
Learning to choose thoughts, managing thoughts and changing thoughts IS the inner work of a great leader. Do the inner work. It’s worth it!

Originally published at



Helping women leaders make it in the nonprofit world. Leadership Development Coach * Best-Selling Author * Wife * Mom * Grandma * Mom to one boxer named Zeus!

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Kathy Archer

Helping women leaders make it in the nonprofit world. Leadership Development Coach * Best-Selling Author * Wife * Mom * Grandma * Mom to one boxer named Zeus!