Episode 164: The optimist’s guide to surviving a toxic workplace – with Michele Phillips of Key Performance

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘happiness is a mindset’, but how do we know if it’s the mindset we have?  Can we train ourselves to have a happier mindset?  And if so, how?

Michele Phillips is a happiness expert who specialises in individual performance in the workplace.

She explains how your mindset affects your happiness, the way you can make happiness a habit, and how to stay positive when working a job you don’t enjoy.

Today’s guest

Michele Phillips of Key Performance

Website: Key Performance

Facebook: Key Performance

LinkedIn: Michele Phillips

YouTube: Michele Phillips

Michele Phillips is the founder of Key Performance, where she specialises in increasing happiness and individual performance in the workplace.  Michele’s professional experience spans more than 20 years facilitating engaging workshops, coaching programs, and keynote presentations with Fortune 500 & 100 companies around the globe, including TAG Heuer, PGA Golf Properties, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Barclays Capital, The New York State Bridge Authority and COACH leather, just to name a few.

She is the author of Happiness is a Habit – Simple Daily Rituals That Increase Energy, Improve Well-Being, and Add Joy to Every Day, cited in the top five most popular self-help books on Amazon in August 2017.  Michele holds numerous certifications and has trained thousands of leaders and individual contributors in the science of habits, emotional intelligence, and leadership.  She also holds a M.A in Organizational Development from Fordham University and is a certified practitioner in the field of Positive Psychology.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • [1:30] How to talk to people about happiness.
  • [4:15] The key factors that affect your happiness level.
  • [6:27] How to stay optimistic in challenging circumstances.
  • [9:17] The innate nature of happiness and optimism.
  • [12:04] Actionable steps to make yourself more optimistic.
  • [13:35] The power of journaling and how to start writing a journal.
  • [16:48] How to put an optimistic spin on negative situations.
  • [18:45] The personal nature of journaling.
  • [20:10] How much time it takes to keep a journal.
  • [22:43] How to be more positive about your job.
  • [26:24] The importance of knowing why you’re leaving a job.
  • [28:45] Five processes to analyse your mentality.
  • [30:44] How to know the right time to make a job change.
  • [32:42] Toxic positivity and the danger of blind optimism.
  • [35:00] How to improve your mental state.
  • [36:35] What to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a commission in the event that you make a purchase.  This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.

Episode 164: The optimist’s guide to surviving a toxic workplace - with Michele Phillips of Key Performance

Jeremy Cline 0:00
When things aren't going well, how can you stay positive and optimistic? How much of your own personal happiness comes from your circumstances, and how much comes from your own actions and thoughts? How can you make happiness a habit? These are the things we talk about in this week's episode. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.

Jeremy Cline 0:36
Hello, and welcome to the Change Work Life podcast, where we're all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. If you want to know how you can enjoy a more satisfying and fulfilling working life, you're in the right place. Is happiness a habit you can learn? When you're in a workplace environment that just doesn't seem right for you, can you stay positive and optimistic and not let work get you down and make you grumpy? That's what we're talking about today, and I'm delighted to be joined by Michele Phillips to help answer these questions. Michele is the founder of Key Performance, through which she increases happiness and individual performance in the workplace. She's the author of Happiness is a Habit: Simple Daily Rituals that Increase Energy, Improve Well-being and Add a Joy to Every Day. Michele, welcome to the podcast.

Michele Phillips 1:26
I'm so excited to be here. Thank you for having me, Jeremy.

Jeremy Cline 1:29
So, how do you introduce yourself to people, and do you get any eye rolling when you talk about happiness?

Michele Phillips 1:34
Yes, I used to tap down my optimism and happiness because I did get a lot of eye rolling. And very early in my career, a woman told me to take my pom-poms and go someplace else. And so, for many years, I tapped it down. And then, I realised this is who I am, and we all have the power to access our happiness if we own it.

Jeremy Cline 2:00
So, who is your ideal client?

Michele Phillips 2:03
Ah, that's a good question. I work with two distinct groups of people, I do a lot of corporate work, where I work with intact teams, and I help them communicate and prove their communications and their trust levels. And then, I work with one-on-one clients, I call it Life Mastery's blueprint. Everyone should be able to make money joyfully, have balance and enjoy their personal life and their professional life and make time for what's important for them. So, those are my two distinct groups of clients.

Jeremy Cline 2:38
And when someone is looking for a particular result, and they think, 'Oh, yeah, I need to work with Michele', what's that result that they're looking for?

Michele Phillips 2:47
That's a good question. It's very personal. So, basically, when I work with clients, I give them a series of questions, they fill out a questionnaire, journaling prompts really, pages of them, but it's really just getting to know themselves. And I find when people sit with themselves and answer these questions, the themes bubble up. So, by the end of the exercise, when I get with the client, there's usually two to three themes that keep repeating themselves. And then, we decide, okay, this is the area we will focus on in our work.

Jeremy Cline 3:20
Okay. So, what's the trigger that gets them to you in the first place?

Michele Phillips 3:24
I think it's that knowing that you're meant for something better, that little bit of dissatisfaction. My clients are successful people. I always say there's a lot of fabulous, hardworking people that are out there every day, doing their best, giving their all, but yet, they know there's some piece of satisfaction missing. We call it here in the United States the Sunday scaries, when you're just feeling that feeling. Nobody should have to live that way. And everyone has more power than they think. So, my superpower is helping people see it a different way, giving them a new perspective.

Jeremy Cline 4:02
So, when it comes to how happy and optimistic someone is, what are the factors, both internal and external, that can affect that?

Michele Phillips 4:15
There's so many factors. We live in a crazy world, right? But I always say there's two different types of people living in the world. There's the pessimists and the complainers and the ones looking, you know, everything's getting worse. And then, there's a group of people saying, 'You know what? Look at us right now. You're in England, and I'm in New York, and we're having this fabulous Zoom conversation, and AI is here, and people could fear it or use it for their good.' So, it's the perspective that you look at. The world is changing, it's moving fast, but are you going to optimise that for your benefit and for making it a better place or thinking it's going the wrong way, going downhill?

Jeremy Cline 4:57
So, as I hear you then, it sounds like it's internal mindset, rather than external situation, which is rather more important when it comes to influencing self-happiness.

Michele Phillips 5:09
Oh my gosh, if I could like jump up and down right now, yes. Because people have so much more power than they think. If you think you're going to get everybody to behave like you want and drive like you want and go to the grocery checkout like you want, I always tease people, I say, 'You can't even get your kids to do what you want sometimes, and you think you're going to get your government, your community.' So, I'm not saying you don't care about these things, and you don't influence them, but when you realise, all the power is yours, and everywhere you go, you're taking that energy with you, you're taking that positivity or negativity with you, and the results you're getting is a mirror from what your outlook is.

Jeremy Cline 5:53
I'm just wondering how far this can extend. Because you're over there in New York, I'm here in the UK, we are both in safe, stable, wealthy countries, the expression first-world problems. So, if you've got someone who does not have those advantages, maybe they're in a developing country, things are an awful lot harder, is it still possible to have this kind of internal optimistic mindsets in those circumstances?

Michele Phillips 6:27
Yes. And I'll cite two examples. Third-world companies, countries, people with less, sometimes they're happier. Right? With all the wealth we have, with all the things we have, sometimes I think the western world, we're the most dissatisfied. Where you go to a country where they have little, but they're happy with what they have. It's a decision. The other example is, again, I've never been in this situation, but Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, that book about being in a concentration camp, and he cites the difference between the outlook, the prisoners that felt the doom and gloom, they were the ones that died quicker, versus the ones that had a more optimistic outlook, and how to be optimistic there, right? So, again, mindset can take you very far, but the difference between mindset and knowledge, I always say, science is proven, A plus B equals C, we have scientific research proven; spiritual knowing is something you have to prove to yourself. And that's what I try to teach my clients. If you practice, I always say, try this on for 30 days, and then you be the judge. And I want you to prove to yourself, when you leave your house looking for what's going right, who's helping each other, what's going well in the world, and you prove to yourself that it's out there, versus the daily barrage of what I call the doom and gloom report, which runs 24/7 on our television screens, and that is constantly teaching us to look at the opposite.

Jeremy Cline 8:12
As you were answering, I realised that the tenor of my question was, in fact, potentially quite privileged. So, apologies to anyone who felt that and felt, yeah, insulted by the question, because that wasn't intended.

Michele Phillips 8:26
Well, Jeremy, and let me say, I always say, I don't know why was I born a white woman in New York, I don't know. But all I know is, I can work on myself, I could do the best thing I can, and I could try to help other people. I don't know why I was born in this situation I was born, and I don't think any of us do. But if each of us see each other's hearts, and see each other pass the facade to the real person, I think that's where we get a better outlook.

Jeremy Cline 8:55
Thank you for that. 'It's just the way I am', that's one of the things that I sometimes hear from people. Is happiness and optimism innate? And so, the counter to that, is pessimism also innate? Is it something that you just are, or is happiness and optimism something that you can learn?

Michele Phillips 9:18
And this is exciting, because there is research behind this now. Dr Martin Seligman out of the University of Pennsylvania, he's kind of the father of positive psychology. And I want to say in the 90s, I don't want to quote the exact year, in the 90s, he self identifies as a cranky, old curmudgeon, pessimist, kind of research guy, and he went to see what's the research we have on happy people. We have so much research on every disorder that a human being can have, bipolar, schizophrenia, depression. What do we have on happy people? And in the 90s, they had absolutely nothing. So, he got a grant, and he went to work, and he found that optimism can be learned. And that's one of his books, if you want to look it up, it's called Learned Optimism by Dr Martin Seligman. And what the research showed was that 50% of our optimism comes from our genes, we don't have control. We have our parents who handed down these genes, and this is our DNA. But 10% of our optimism comes from our circumstances, where we live, who we're married to, what our outlook on life is, and 40% is on what we do, think and have every day. So, it's the actions we take, let me say that, I'm saying that wrong. 40% is on how we're thinking, what we're doing about it, and what the actions we're taking. So, we have almost 50% control of our happiness. And to your answer, 'it's just the way I am'. I ask people two questions: during the day, ask yourself, 'How am I feeling, and am I happy with my results?' If you're feeling good, and you're happy with your results, high five; if you're not, you have a choice, especially if you're in a western world, like we say, when you have the privilege and you have the tools.

Jeremy Cline 11:18
I'm curious, I don't know whether you know the answer to this question, but how on earth did he come up with these percentages? How would you measure that 50% is genetic and 10% is circumstances and 40% is thoughts and actions?

Michele Phillips 11:31
Yeah, that's the lawyer in you coming out.

Jeremy Cline 11:34
I like to think it's part scientist!

Michele Phillips 11:39
I'm sure you could research that, I do not have that answer.

Jeremy Cline 11:42
That's fair enough. All right. So, someone listening to this has gone around thinking, 'Oh, well, it's just the way I am. Okay, maybe it isn't. I wonder if there's something in this.' Let's start with some quick wins. What can someone do today to start to improve their optimistic or happiness outlook?

Michele Phillips 12:05
I always ask people, I used to run what I call the Happy Happy Hours, and I wanted people to come, because everyone comes and talks about the doom and gloom report. I'm like, 'Tell me what's going right in your life. Tell me who loves you, tell me who has your back, tell me the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, find the littlest thing and build from there.' Gratitude is the queen virtue of optimism, and people look down on it as such a silly thing. And again, I guarantee you, even, oh my gosh, Sonja Lyubomirsky, who is the author of The How of Happiness, also these researchers are so fun, because they're kind of pessimistic, and she said, 'When I was writing the chapter on gratitude, I didn't want it to work, but it did work.' So, again, you have to try it on. What's going Right? Take out your journal. I write morning rituals. Every single morning, I tell people, you have to do something that inspires, motivates or educates you in the morning. And you have to shift that energy to focus on where you want to go in your day. And if you do that ritualistically, it becomes a habit, and a habit is something you don't think about. And you start to see the world in a very different way. And then, there's those two groups of people. Some people are out there killing it, and optimistic and see everything's improving, and other people think it's getting worse.

Jeremy Cline 13:31
I'm going to take this opportunity to ask you about journaling. It is one of those things I have heard so many times that it is positive and beneficial. And yet, it is something that, I don't know why, I just have not started yet. And I don't know what it is, whether I just don't know how to or what to write, or whatever. Michele, help me out here, how can I just start with journaling?

Michele Phillips 13:56
My number one thing is to make it fun and easy. I literally keep I keep an easy button on my desk, which people can't see if they're listening, but I keep an easy button on my desk, and my big thing with my clients is, I don't want to add more work to what you're doing, I want this to be fun and joyful for you so that you do it. So, journaling, first of all, give up the rules. It's not a diary. It's not 'dear diary, today', you know. I used to write when I was a kid, 'Johnny said hi to me', and you know, whatever. I felt stupid in math class. It could be whatever you want. I use my journal in a couple of different ways. I take notes in it. I'm a voracious reader. Knowledge is something that fascinates me, so as I'm reading or listening to a book or a podcast even, I'm taking notes in my journal. What happens with journaling is it engages all five of your senses, or four of your senses, excuse me. You're writing it kinaesthetically, you're saying it to yourself, you're hearing it, and you're seeing it. So, it's causing you to focus. And that focus is all your power. If I took the energy of the sun and focused it, I could start a fire. When you take all the stuff the blender had, that's going on in your mind and your thoughts, and you focus it in a journal, I guarantee you, you gain clarity, you get an aha moment, you learn something about yourself. So, journal about your day, journal about something you want an answer to, but ask the right question. 'Why am I so stupid?' No. 'How can I get through this' is a smart question. You never want to ask a question you don't want the answer to. I colour pictures in my journal, I make mind maps, like today for our interview, I made a mind map of topics I might want to talk about. So, sometimes I write about my day, sometimes I'm taking notes, but the goal of my journal nowadays is to raise my energy, so I feel uplifted and optimistic.

Jeremy Cline 15:54
That's interesting, because one of the things I've heard about journaling is, it's a technique before you go to bed to kind of get all of your worries out, so that they're in there somewhere, and you're not waking up in the middle of the night and replaying them in your head. But I guess what I'm seeing as a counter to that is that you're potentially then writing down lots of negative things. Oh, I'm worried about this. This isn't going right. I've got this big thing tomorrow, and I'm a bit worried about it. Perhaps this is not right, but I can see this as a means of reinforcing that negativity. So, I'm wondering if the approach that you've described there, the 'how can I get through this', talk a bit about that, how you might sort of reframe, particularly if it's like bedtime journaling.

Michele Phillips 16:49
Yeah. And it is, journaling is such a powerful technique. And I always say, throw out everybody's rules, and make your own rules. The goal to me is that it makes you feel better. So, one of my clients right now, she just fills pages and pages, because she's really just on the cusp of learning all this mindset stuff. And in the beginning, yes, you are purging negativity, you are purging all the yucky feelings. But the point is to purge them in the journal, not to perpetuate them. And that's like taking a bath; you take a bath, and you don't sit in the dirty bathwater. Eventually, you get out. So, to sit with your journal for the purpose of just getting it out, releasing the tension, and journaling until you actually feel a shift in your emotions. If you're just talking about how bad it is, and how bad it's getting, you're just digging a hole. And you cannot get to the bottom of a hole you're digging. But if you journal with the purpose of releasing the negativity, and then asking, one of my journal questions I give my clients is, 'I'm happy this is happening because...' One of my clients was just looked over for a promotion, and she's a little upset, but we're working together, and I'm like, 'Okay, your journal prompt is unhappy, this is happening because...' I'm not happy this is happening. Let's look for the lesson. It's teaching me that my behaviour in the past is now affecting my promotion, I'm learning, it's teaching me maybe this company isn't the right fit for me. Whatever it is, but when you start to, what I call, use the optimistic spin, you could put a spin on anything, I promise you. If Viktor Frankl could put a spin on being in a concentration camp, we could put a spin on our day at work. So, it's using your journal for the purpose of feeling relief.

Jeremy Cline 18:35
And is a journal something that you go back to, you look at, or is it just there in the moment, and then you could, once you've filled out your exercise book, just shred it, do away with it?

Michele Phillips 18:49
And again, that's a personal thing. So, if you have this journal with all this negative, when I was going through my divorce, I filled volumes, and that might be something I want to burn. So, I always tell people to follow their energy. And my coaching is about connecting your head to your heart. We live so much in our brain that we don't connect with how we feel about things. We always say, 'What do I think?' So, when you write your journal, if burning it makes you feel empowered, burn it. If you want to refer to it later, refer to it later. I often don't go back, but I'm crazy. I number my journals, and then I also keep a catalogue in the front of all the books I've taken notes on. So, if I need a book, I read that book last year, I go to the journal, I find my notes on the book, and I have access. So, again, you create the rules. That's the biggest thing. It should feel good to you. And I am rereading a journal because I've just read six fabulous books in the last year or so, and I'm going back because I want to study what I've learned. So, I'm rereading, but I don't always. But again, I follow the energy.

Jeremy Cline 20:00
How'd you overwhelm yourself, so this doesn't become very time consuming? Because I can see that being a major objection, is I just don't have time to do this.

Michele Phillips 20:10
Yeah, I love that question, Jeremy, thank you. And that's the biggest pushback I get. When I get a new coaching client, I give them a journal. And the reaction is either, 'I don't have time for this', or it's, 'I don't want to write down my scary thoughts, someone might read it.' So, to your question about making it work, I always say, like a client the other day, I said a journal entry is 'today was a good day'. It doesn't have to be overwhelming, and you don't have to write in it every day. I want people to pick up their journal and have it with them always. I always say my journal is an extension of my hand, my arm. It's in my case all the time, when I'm on an aeroplane, when I'm waiting for the doctor. I've grown to love it so much that I bring it with me everywhere. And I write in it when I have a moment. Now, my morning ritual is to write in it, but for people that are starting the habit, twice a week, three times a week, open it up and just write what you're feeling in the moment. Sometimes I tell my clients, 'Michele is making me write in the journal, I don't want to write in it today.' Write that. It doesn't matter, it's your journal, I don't look at it, nobody sees it. But then, what I want you to do is, what's the word I'm looking for, consistency, so if after 90 days, you've written in it a couple times a week, I want you to connect how you feel on the days you've written in it, versus the days you don't. And for me, when I connect to that feeling, again, my life has been so good, because I've worked on myself for so many years, but when I was going through my divorce and the dumps and writing all the negativity, now I look forward, I cannot wait to get my cup of coffee, sit on my front porch, and start my day with some journaling that's going to raise my energy, my positivity and just make me feel good.

Jeremy Cline 22:00
Let's go back to the workplace. This has been a great diversion that I'm conscious that I want to give people some some workplace tips. So, you're at work, and you're feeling negative, you're feeling grumpy, this is just rubbish. We'll talk in a minute about changing your situation, maybe finding a new job or whatever it might be. Before you get to that stage, what are some of the mental processes that you can go through to perhaps help reorient yourself, realign yourself and look out there and think, 'Hey, actually, maybe not everything's all that bad.'

Michele Phillips 22:44
The morning rituals are, to me, mandatory. If you want to live a positive existence, every morning, inspire, motivate, or educate yourself. On your way to work, before you go to work, listen to positive playlists, a great podcast, like this one, a book, something that changes your energy to focus on the positive. And then, when you get to work, you open up your first email, and you already feel like you're knocked back, give yourself those many breaks during the day. You have to manage your energy, and when your fight and flight goes on at work, what we normally do is we just dig in, fight, and our heart is racing, we're getting stressed or overwhelmed, and we just dig in deeper. And I say stop. Go outside. Take a walk with someone positive. I always say, at work, look for the believers. There are positive people in every workforce. I worked a lot with salespeople, and they would say to me, 'Oh, quota is too high, and the competition is cutting rates.' And I said, 'Who do you eat lunch with?' 'I eat lunch with Joe and Sue.' I'm like, 'What do they think?' 'Oh, they think it stinks around here, too.' 'Who's making quota? 'Jim and Glen are making quota?' Then go to lunch with Jim and Glen. So, there's things you could do, you have to realise that complaining about complaining is still complaining, and going outside resets your energy, again, research around, just being under a sky or just out of the artificial light, and air shifts your energy, makes you feel better, taking the breaks, having a disconnect ritual when you leave, don't take work home with you, and again, we all are going to have to work with negative people. They're not going away. But you don't have to participate. And I'll tell you a funny story, years ago, so I've been doing this so long. When I got really into this work, it was like, gosh, '97. And I was so excited, I was at my job, and I said, 'I'm going to be positive, and I'm only going to hang around with positive people and have positive conversations.' And I got pulled into my boss's office, and she said to me, 'Michele, what's going on with you?' 'Oh, I've got this new thing, I'm just being positive.' And she said to me, 'Well, people think you're not a team player. You're aloof, you're kind of off on your own.' And I was like, because I don't want to be in the negativity. I learned that I swung the pendulum too far. We are never going to eradicate all the negative people and all the cranky people. So, I can respect you and know that, maybe if I lived your life, I would be cranky, too. I could get the work done and see the grace in you, I would say look for the grace in everyone, but I don't have to go to lunch with you. I don't have to take breaks with you. I don't have to get further than the work with you. I'm going to spend my time, because my time is valuable, with the people who are seeing what's going right and that are having positive conversations. And with this, what's that quote, great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about events, and small minds talk about others.

Jeremy Cline 25:50
What about some of the things you can think about before you get to the I need to change my situation, my position? You talked, when we were chatting off air, about five practices or five thoughts that you can have to really examine your own thoughts, just to check that it isn't just you here, before you go and make any drastic changes.

Michele Phillips 26:18
Yeah, that's really important. And a lot of people don't see this so clearly. So, let me see if I could try to articulate the best I can. I always tell people, do not leave a situation because you're running away from something you don't want. Leave because there's something better for you. And there's a big difference. Because if I'm leaving because I don't like the environment, I don't like the people, I'm still taking me with me. But a positive person with a healthy mindset can see the best in every situation and even in the worst people. I always say, happy people want you to be happy. And grumpy, backstabbing, complaining people, they're just not happy with themselves, so they're disconnected from their joy and their true heart. It does not condone bad behaviour, but it gives you more compassion around people. So, even early in my career, I've worked for two bosses, I think it's really important to clear up any negative energy in a loving way. One of my first bosses, out of school, didn't like one of the women on our team. And whenever I went to lunch with this person, the boss treated me badly when I got back from lunch and gave me extra work. So, I pulled her aside, and I said, 'I don't know if you realise it,' again, very innocently, this is where your emotional intelligence comes in, and your communication skills, 'when I go to lunch with her, you treat me differently. Do you notice that? 'Oh, I didn't notice.' So, really having those courageous conversations with people, I had another boss that just was a workaholic, and I said, 'I will work so hard for you, but I also want a life. I'll stay late, but not every night.' So, really, having these heart to heart, Ted Lasso, I am the biggest Ted Lasso fan, I don't know if you're watching Ted Lasso, but bringing humanity back to the workplace and showing that all of us have, I've got that beautiful bird in my year, all of us have a negative and a positive, we have a masculine and a feminine side. And being that whole person at work, your mind and your heart, when you're having conversations. I feel like I got off on a tangent, but did that answer the question?

Jeremy Cline 28:33
I would like to bring it back around to these five habits or five thought processes that you've talked about when we chatted just before we hit record?

Michele Phillips 28:42
Yeah, and we've hit most of them as we've been talking. So, the number one is, take responsibility for your relationships. Two people in every relationship. So, if everyone you know is a jerk, then you're the common denominator. So, I always say, looking for the grace and everyone, and giving people grace. We're all trying to do the best we can. Becoming unavailable for the drama, I mentioned that earlier as well. When people start complaining, you don't have to just sit there quietly. You can be in a lunchroom with people or in the break room or wherever, I'm working from home now, but just being unavailable for the drama and taking the optimistic spin. The less offended you are, I promise you, the wiser you are. Use the law of focus and the optimistic spin, which is what we've been talking about. People don't realise, the law of focus states that, whatever you focus on gets bigger. So, when you get a new blue car and you go driving on the road, you see all the blue cars. When you're talking about how toxic the work environment is, all you see is the toxicity. So, the optimistic spin says, where are the positive people, where are the people that I respect in this company, who are the people in this company I want to be around, and I promise you, you will find them, if you make that conscious decision. And then, cultivating the positive work habits, like taking a break, not answering your emails, having some kind of disconnect ritual when you leave. And really knowing your why, I'm going to talk about that. So, the optimistic spin, I'm at this position because this money is helping me live the lifestyle I want. And it might be temporary, but for now, I am going to do everything I can to make this a pleasant situation, because this is my life.

Jeremy Cline 30:32
Okay. So, say you've done all of that, what's going to be the indicators that you'd still be better off changing your situation, getting another job, moving elsewhere?

Michele Phillips 30:44
I encourage all my clients to interview at least once a year. We get very complacent in our roles, and we don't know even what we're worth on the outside market. So, the best time to look for a job is when you don't need one. So, I always tell people, go out and see what's out there. And you might say, 'Oh my gosh, I'm worth so much more at this other company, or this atmosphere seems like it's the right fit for me.' So, here's what happens, if you're in a bad mood because you had a bad day, your boss, your co-worker, somebody put you in a bad mood, but a bad mood in one day then turns into a bad week, a bad month. And then, that becomes your attitude. You're just a curmudgeon. It becomes who you are. So, if you're finding that you've lost the lustre, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and you're exhausted, and you're depleted, and the Sunday scaries could be every day, if you really don't like your workplace, talk to your network, see what's available out there, and realise that there's always another ship, there's always another opportunity. There's always another job, there's always another relationship. The optimistic viewpoint is that nothing is forever, and nothing is the be-all and end-all. So, even if you leave a company, and then you get there, I worked at a company once for three months, and I hated it, and I thought, 'Oh my gosh, am I giving up?' But you know what? I gave it a shot. And then, I ended up calling another interview that I had, I got two job offers, I picked one, and I didn't like it, ended up at the other one. So, there's no such thing as a mistake. I think that's what we think, we put all our relationships and our work choices that they're like these be-all, end-all decisions, when they're not. They don't have to be.

Jeremy Cline 32:32
And turning it the other way, when does optimism effectively become blind optimism, and you're doing all of these working on yourself habits, and it's actually sort of preventing you or slowing you down from making a positive move when that's really what you need?

Michele Phillips 32:50
Yeah, and that's why I ask results. What are the results you're getting? And what's the word they're using, toxic positivity. And to me, that term means, toxic positivity is fake. If you're faking it, if you're just trying to put the rose coloured glasses on and gloss over things when it really is not a good situation, that's not good. Realistic optimism, that's very different. Realistic optimism is, this is not the situation I want to be in, but I know I could get into a better position. One of the classes I teach is on Sir Ernest Shackleton; in the 1900s, his boat sank on his way to Antarctica. And 28 men lived on an ice floe for almost two years. And I teach the class, and we teach realistic optimism. Here's 28 men in 1900s, there's no cell phones, their boat sank, and they're living on an ice floe. He was on realistically optimistic. This is the worst situation we could ever be in, but we will survive. And they did. So, there's a big difference. Fake, it's fake, you don't feel it. Fake optimism is putting on the smile, but feeling really crappy behind it.

Jeremy Cline 34:10
The last thing I'd like to explore is, the person who has decided that they do need to make a change, maybe it's a new job, maybe it's an entire shift in career, and for whatever reason, it's taking a while, maybe it's taking a year, maybe it's taking longer, maybe what they need to do to get where they want to is do a qualification, and they've got to go back to evening classes or something like that, and it's taking a while. And then, they're still going back to the job and kind of thinking, 'I really don't want to be here. Yes, I'm taking steps so that I don't have to be here much longer', but being there for that length of time, they're finding it a struggle. What can someone who is in that sort of situation do so they don't get these Sunday scaries every day?

Michele Phillips 35:00
Yeah, I think, again, going back to the law of focus, and in my book, Happiness is a Habit, it's mental, physical, spiritual and emotional well being. And again, the research is, if you do something for yourself in all four areas, you feel better, you feel more balance. And that's a difference in the research also between an optimist and a pessimist. And optimism can be learned. If a pessimist is in a bad work situation, they might let it affect all other areas of their life. It's kind of like the scenario, come home, yell at your spouse, kick the dog, send the children to their room, everybody gets the brunt of the unhappiness. Versus the optimist is able to compartmentalise; my job is not what I want right now, but I have this loving relationship, I have these children, I have whatever it is, I have my tennis lessons. So, it's looking at the things that bring you joy. And I always tell people, you could take a walk in the woods with a loved one, and you hit all four, mental, physical, spiritual, emotional, so it's really making the time, it's not looking, hopefully, I find the time, making the time for you to work on your mental, physical, spiritual and emotional well being.

Jeremy Cline 36:18
And is there like an emergency button you can hit? So, just when, yeah, great, but there's probably still going to be the situations where you come home, you feel like you've had a rubbish day, you're in a dark, dark mood, and you're kind of like, 'I don't want this to spill over', hits the emergency button, whack. Is there such a thing?

Michele Phillips 36:39
Yeah, phone your village. I'm on a group text, we have a group text called The Village, and there's four of us. And we've been together for, gosh, 20 something years now. But who are your cheerleaders? Who are your supporters? We all need someone that, when we're feeling so low, sees how fabulous we are. Another great story, I was on my way to Manhattan one year, and I had like two sales appointments, and I don't even remember what was happening, but I was so low. I was like in tears for whatever was going on in my life. And I called one of my lifelines, I said, 'I am on my way to some sales calls, and I feel like absolute rubbish.' That's a British word, right? I feel like rubbish. And I said, 'I need you to help me.' And he said to me, 'Oh my gosh, Michele, you are the candle at the Easter Vigil, your light lights all those other candles in the cathedral, and you've always been a supporter of me, and you've made me see what I'm available and who I am.' And so, I don't remember what he said. But he just gushed over me and told me how fabulous I was. And I vividly remember being on the West Side Highway Manhattan, tears rolling down my face, but you just feel that yuckiness lift, and it's like, just because this situation is bad, I'm not bad.

Jeremy Cline 37:53
Just because the situation is bad, I'm not bad. I am going to leave it on that note. Sounds beautiful, absolutely love that, I might get my wife to cross stitch a sampler of that. That's great. This has been fabulous. You've mentioned various books as we've spoken. Are there any others, apart from your own, which come to mind, or other resources, podcasts, quotes, anything else which you think will be helpful for people?

Michele Phillips 38:18
I have so many books, but I look at my books, I keep an arsenal of books, and I give them away all the time. And right now, one of my faves that I've been giving everybody is called The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. And the entire book talks about the voice in your head, which is all mindset. And he just does a brilliant job of articulating how to manage the voice in your head. He's just brilliant. So, The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer is something I give away often.

Jeremy Cline 38:50
And for those people who want to get in touch with you and find you, where would you like them to go?

Michele Phillips 38:55
Yeah, so my Instagram is @keyperformance. Key Performance is the name of my company. And my website is Key 2 Unlock. So, it's K-E-Y, the number two, unlock, like unlock a door, key2unlock.com. And if you go to my website, you can get my five super habits for energising your results.

Jeremy Cline 39:16
Brilliant. As always, links to those will be in the show notes. Michele, thank you so much for coming on and for being so positive. I know that listeners can't see our conversation, but genuinely, Michele has been grinning for pretty much our entire conversation. So, thank you so much. Thank you for your positivity.

Michele Phillips 39:34
It works, Jeremy, thank you so much for having me. I've enjoyed it.

Jeremy Cline 39:39
Okay, hope you enjoyed the interview with Michele Phillips. So many great tips there for things you can do to improve your own personal happiness. And it was clear from what Michele was saying just how much of our own personal happiness derives from our own thoughts and actions. I was really glad to spend a bit of time talking about journaling, because this is something that I've been thinking about for ages but haven't yet put into practice. So, maybe this is something which I'll finally get down and do. As always, there's show notes for this episode at changeworklife.com/164, that's changeworklife.com/164. And on the subject of happiness, yeah, you know it's coming, I've got a couple of exercises to help you find out just what would make you happier at work. You'll find those exercises at changeworklife.com/happy, that's H-A-P-P-Y, changeworklife.com/happy, so do check them out. Now, which one are you? Contributor, go-getter, expert, or executive? If you don't know which you are, or maybe you have no idea what I'm talking about, then make sure you check out the episode that's coming in two weeks' time, and all will be revealed. So, as to make sure you don't miss that, subscribe to the show, and I can't wait to see you then. Cheers. Bye.

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