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Whether they know the science behind it, or they just believe it to be best practice, athletes with any competitive experience lean on the concept of mental preparation or visualization. The techniques typically involve imagining the complex tasks they must perform well to succeed in their sport. The quarterback recites the play calls and commands the huddle, in his mind. An episode from last year’s Hard Knocks depicts this visualization when backup quarterback T.J. Yates sits in an empty room pretending to run the Atlanta Falcon offense, successfully picking up the defense, audibling to the right play call, and torching the imaginary foe.


Photo credit: MartaZ* via Flickr/Creative Commons

But more than football, athletes of all kinds perform these visual mind games. A downhill skier will walk the course, imagining successful lines and fast times. A tennis player visualizes the perfect serve.

Beneath all of these visualizations is a core truth about positivity. Human beings respond well to positivity. They, in fact, thrive.

The Ratio

In fact, research suggests that human beings flourish much more consistently when they encounter 3 positive emotions for every negative emotion. This principle defines the positivity ratio.

The positivity ratio is, in fact, a calculation of an overall emotional state based on the emotions you are currently feeling. Have you felt silly, amused, or fun-loving? That’s a positive emotion. Have you felt guilty, repentant, or blameworthy? That’s a negative emotion. Over the course of 20 or so questions, you can begin to see where you stand on the positivity ratio.

What these athletes working through visualization are encountering is the benefits of positivity. In addition to the good feeling it provides, positivity can widen the scope of attention, broaden your behavioral repertoire, increase intuition, enhance creativity, speed up recovery from injury or disease, prevent stress-related disorders, provide resilience in adversity, and increase life span. So, in short, it’s a pretty big deal.

But an adequate positivity ratio is extremely rare. In fact, only 20% of Americans accomplish it.

The State of Nature

And intuitively, it makes sense. Everyone experiences good and bad emotions on a daily basis and our moods reflect that variety of positive and negative emotions. Brains have been wired to respond to threats against survival so we all tend to focus on that threat instead of seeing the positive things happening in life. When we experience positive and negative emotions at an equal level, the scale tips toward the negative and life feels unrewarding.


Photo Credit: Daniel Lobo via Flickr/Creative Commons

These negative emotions trigger fight or flight behavior. While it might help us focus and increase our reaction time, it also challenges your health, especially if you work a desk job. Consistent stress can negatively influence your health rapidly. It can increase cholesterol production and decrease its rate of removal. It can position you to encounter a higher chance of blood clotting. It can take a toll on your immune system. It can even influence your memory.

Much of this negativity is a result of our own doing. As a society, we change jobs quickly. We are expected to take on high workloads. There’s a consistent stress on finances as we try to keep up with the Joneses. Generally, we’re too busy and our perfectionist ways lead to negative self-talk.

So how do you get there?

To start, take the test and take it often. You can find it at Secondly, find some balance through skills and hobbies that can relax and refresh you. This suggestion is especially important for people stuck in mid-level and entry-level roles where they don’t feel like they have much autonomy to change the system. Maybe it’s reading a book. Perhaps it’s joining a rec-league basketball team. Maybe it’s serving at an animal shelter.

If you’re in a management position, take steps towards creating a positive environment. Provide support, encouragement, and appreciation. Be an advocate for your team. But don’t avoid conflict, as an appropriate approach to conflict can be affirming as well, provided the end goal is collectively in mind.

So business people should take a page out of the sports playbook and think positively. It might mean visualizing a great day at work. It might mean harnessing the things you can control in your life to provide some balance. It could mean approaching team management a little bit differently. But shifting the ratio toward positivity, at least 3-1, but even higher is better, will be good for you, good for your team, and good for business.

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Hand Outstretched 
What does it mean to be human? How can we live a good life? These are the questions at the heart of our blog, Marigold Matters.

We admit that these are really big questions without simple answers. In fact, there are multiple ways to be human and live a good life. The diversity of options is part of the reason it is so difficult to get our heads and hearts around the solution. As a result we are often distracted and confused about why we feel empty, frustrated, unsatisfied, or exhausted. We don’t know why we can’t make the changes we need to bring us greater physical, financial, or relational well being.

Are all ways of being human equal? We believe not. Both traditional wisdom and modern science provide guidelines that enable us to avoid the most dangerous pitfalls, respond to adversity with growth, and design our lives to bring out the best in ourselves and the others we influence—our families, friends, co-workers and communities.

One of the most pressing problems of our age is the fragmentation that we feel. We experience the competing demands of work and family, self-care and serving others, our public and private selves. We see one of our most important roles in these blogs is to bring integration to the diverse domains of life.

In our blogs we’ll draw together the oldest, time-tested and the newest, scientifically valid thinking on topics that matter to our daily lives. We’ll cover issues of health, age, gender, relationships, spirituality, work, and contribution. We’ll not only look at how we should live as individuals, but importantly, we’ll look at life in families, organizations and communities.

Look for us Tuesdays & Fridays.  We hope you’ll make Marigold Matters a part of your regular reading.

Both Linda Wagener and Richard Beaton contributed to this post.


“By ourselves we suffer serious limitations. Together we can be something wonderful.”—Max De Pree

Practice + Theory + Practice + Theory

In a world that disguises bland sameness, jargon, formulas, and efficiency for creativity and innovation, we search, many times in vain, for the real thing. All too often what masquerades as innovation remains held hostage to the box we are trying to escape. It may be a different part of the box, but the impregnable boundaries of the box remain. Marigold Associates is a business that brings together practice and theory in unconventional ways to make sense of the diverse changing world. The model of practice, reflection, applied theory and reflective practice allows us to be constantly learning, growing, changing, and developing with the marketplace and our clients. We are more a design studio than a manufacturing facility, more musicians than engineers. Science and art merge, and wisdom has again found a place at the table.

R + D

At Marigold Associates we are intentional about forming a community that has learning and practice, creativity and innovation, as part of its DNA. We also acknowledge that one discipline does not have all the answers. This means that we value staying current in theory, models and method, but we are also keen observers of cultural trends. We share an ongoing dialogue about the things we are learning. This might include recent films, books, art, architecture and, of course, trends within the professional guilds of leadership and management, the behavioral sciences, finance, neuro-science, theology and so on. This level of engagement is what allows us to be a creative design workshop, a vibrant, combustible environment out of which flow solutions for our clients. This is our R & D.

You + Us

Our work with our clients is decidedly different than most. We are honest, supportive, destabilizing, disruptive. We understand the human side, we know how to shape and change culture, form leadership and manage the current and next generation. We are deliberately not like the big consulting firms, in that we do not offer formulaic, one-size-fits-all products. Because we are a boutique firm of seasoned professionals, we are able to craft work that is specifically designed for each client and their industry. But more importantly, our work is informed by our work together. Our clients become part of our community of practice, which leads to elegant, innovative solutions to their real needs.

We invite you to become a part of our community. Get your feet wet by signing up to receive our blog posts via email. And please stop by often to leave your comments. We’d love to hear from you!

Both Linda Wagener and Richard Beaton contributed to this post.


Towards a life well lived

We think that integration is the next challenging frontier for people. Our society seems to be struggling with bringing together two opposing forces. The first is our innate need to create a holistic framework from which to live life, a unified vision of reality. This overall framework provides a way of bringing all the bits together, helping us to understand our humanity and how to live a good life. Without it, it becomes difficult to integrate what we are learning and experiencing day to day.

The second force is an unrelenting expansion and atomization of knowledge. As scholars mined the various disciplines with greater specificity, they also became more fragmented, or siloed, if you will. Knowledge of random bits and pieces is a frame, but knowledge (here we mean book learning) on its own is only of limited value. People are bombarded with new ideas and research results like a giant wave pummeling the seashore. The view provided by the generalist, the one who has access to a breadth of knowledge in many disciplines, has been lost. We seek to reclaim it!

The struggle is between these two forces, yet both are essential. Wisdom, beauty, science, and belief systems all are necessary in framing a good life. They are also essential in building great, people-centered organizations. We think there is a need to return to wisdom, which is simply knowledge guided by an understanding of the way the world works, to balance the new things we discover in our research universities and businesses.

The complexity of life today presses against us with its decisions, circumstances, and relationships. All seem to demand more than we have. We all could use advice. We seek it from friends, family, groups. Individuals willing to push it further often hire a life coach, read a self-help book, seek out a spiritual leader or therapist. Life is becoming big business. But unlike most areas, there is no professional society and no real professional service. It is a space filled with amateurs, some more informed than others. We are all trying to sort it out.

We hope that you will join us as we at Marigold Associates try to provide a sound way forward, shaped by the best of both science and wisdom.

Both Linda Wagener and Richard Beaton contributed to this post.


Marigold Matters

Let’s face it, life is challenging. Executives, small business owners, housewives, parents and students are all struggling to figure it out. We are out of balance, overdrawn on our time and energy, living on credit. The old formulas aren’t working. And we’re doing a poor job of helping the next generation prepare for the future.

Marigold Matters is our blog devoted to the topic of how to live better. Why do we think we have something to add to this discussion? Good question! Between us, we’ve spent decades studying and teaching this topic. Our training in the humanities and social science has provided us with the relevant tools and content.

And if you are imaging us as library gnomes, let us reassure you that we also have lived alongside you in the trenches. We have led long (yes, we are getting old) and pretty interesting lives that have allowed us to connect with people in all their glorious diversity. We’ve experienced life in various cultures and conditions. Across five continents, we’ve worked with street people and millionaires, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists, soldiers and humanitarian aid workers, children and CEOS.

In the end, we do our best to practice what we preach. We’re serious about trying to live a good life; one that is creatively engaging, ethical, filled with meaning and purpose, and brings out our best. As we continue to struggle and grow, we have noticed considerable improvement since we began adopting in our own lives the approach we recommend to others. We hope you will join us through our struggles, insights, failures and successes, and share yours with us. Together we hope we can all come to more fully understand how to live life well.

Please join us. You can begin by signing up to receive Marigold Matters via email.


Both Linda Wagener and Richard Beaton contributed to this post.