By Dr. Jason Selk

Optimistic people are happier and more successful than their pessimistic counterparts. So says the highly respected UPenn professor, Dr. Martin Seligman, known as the “father of positive psychology.” For example, in one of his studies (here’s the link), he found that salespeople with the highest optimism scores outsold their pessimistic counterparts by 20 to 40 percent.

But if you’re a small business owner, it’s not always easy to stay upbeat when you’ve got a scaled-down, overworked, worried workforce–and sluggish sales to boot.

It reminds me of the downtrodden 2006 St. Louis Cardinals. When they brought me on board as their first-ever Director of Mental Training, I coached them on the fundamentals of being positive, optimistic, and resilient in the face of challenges. They went on to win their first World Series in 20 years. Now I show businesspeople how to use these same techniques and get equally winning results.

Here are five of my Mental Toughness strategies that will boost optimism at your company and make you a better manager, performance coach, and role model to your employees.

  1. Create a culture of self-evaluation. Encourage everyone at your company to answer three questions every day: What am I doing well? What do I need to improve? How will I make this improvement? Check in with a different worker each day. Talking to your people about their successes and their challenges–as well as your own–gives everyone a sense of forward movement, possibility, and camaraderie.
  2. Brainstorm and develop a team vision. Call a vision session. What do you all want for the company? Where do you expect it to be in a year? The more detailed the vision, the better. For example, you want sales to increase by 50 percent, a new in-house IT department, and a brand makeover. Post these goals where everyone can see them daily. Expectancy theory says: that which we focus on expands.
  3. Develop a relentless solution focus (RSF). RSF is a technique that takes practice, but once you and your employees get the hang of it, it will have a dramatic effect on people’s mood and your company’s success. RSF is one’s ability to quickly transform every problem-focused thought into a solution-focused thought. Whenever someone points out a problem, train your people to promptly ask, “What’s needed?”
  4. Strive for any improvement, no matter how small. The tortoise won the race one small step at a time. Companies tend to forget this when their bottom lines are flat, sales are flagging, and morale is low. As a small business leader, one of your jobs is to see even a tiny improvement in any situation as a win and part of the solution. It’s a positive mental technique that you can share and teach to others as well.
  5. Teach them to “get it done.” Staying upbeat is more than just a set of thought processes. It’s also linked to discipline. Permeate your company culture with the practice of finding a way to “get it done.” Employees gain optimism by knowing that they can control outcomes. They do this by tirelessly translating hope and confidence into success through disciplined action. Make discipline a core value.

Jason Selk Ed.D. trains companies and organizations –including professional athletes, sports teams, coaches, and business leaders –on how to achieve optimal performance. He’s the bestselling author of 10-Minute Toughness and Executive Toughness; a regular television and radio contributor to ABC, CBS, ESPN and NBC; and has appeared widely in print. Learn more at