Complaining and negative thoughts can turn into lifelong habits. Here’s how to rewire your brain so the glass is half-full instead of half-empty.

Share story

“Good morning!” you called out to your co-worker as she took off her coat and settled into her chair in the cubicle next to yours.

“What’s good about it?” came her mumbled response.

During the staff meeting later that morning, your boss shared that you and your colleague were selected to participate on a cross-functional project team. You were excited, but she moaned, “Great. As if I don’t already have enough to do.”

Thinking you could cheer her up, you invited her to lunch at the restaurant down the street. Enjoying the short walk in the Seattle rain, you wished out loud that it would snow soon. Your colleague responded with all the reasons why she hates it when it snows in Seattle. Sound familiar?

Whether you’re the office Grinch or you’re dealing with a co-worker with a perpetual black cloud floating over him or her, the holidays are a great time to get your positive groove back. Why? Because as Donald Hebb, a Canadian neuropsychologist once said, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”

What he meant by that statement is the more you think or do something, the more comfortable your brain gets with it. So the more you (or your colleague) complains or thinks negative thoughts, the more it becomes a habit wired into your brain. Which isn’t good for you, your career, or even your health.

Here’s how you can rewire your brain from thinking the glass is half-empty to seeing it as half-full:

Start a gratitude journal. Each day, take a few minutes to write down two or three things for which you’re grateful. This will help flip your mind-set. Instead of getting frustrated about being chosen for a project team, celebrate that management values your skills — and then work with your manager to prioritize your activities to fit the project into your schedule.

Express your thankfulness. Did someone do something special for you or go above and beyond the call of duty? Tell him or her how much you appreciate it. Better yet, also tell his or her manager.

Lisa Quast, columnist for The Seattle Times Jobs
Lisa Quast, columnist for The Seattle Times Jobs

Increase your mindfulness. Instead of diving right into tasks, projects or meetings, take a few moments to get centered and organized. Think about what you’re trying to accomplish (goals and objectives) and how your activities could positively help others (and even help yourself). Sometimes the journey is just as important (or even more important) than the end result.

Studies have shown that people who are grateful are more likely to feel happier, healthier and more optimistic about the future. If it’s true that like attracts like, then the holiday season is the perfect time to rewire your brain to focus on everything that’s positive in your life and in your career.

Lisa Quast is a certified executive coach, and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at