As children our eyes were open to the wonder all around us. We were giddy at the sheer excitement of just being: whether because we just read a fantastic book or fell in love with a character or saw an eagle land so close we could count its tail feathers.
Remember how we couldn’t wait to tell someone about that special moment? It bubbled up inside until it burst forth. That excitement drove us long past that initial moment, fueling the imagination and escaping us as stories, many of which we still might tell today.
That feeling has a word: enthusiasm. It’s a fire in the belly. A light in the eyes. The overflow of emotion and wonder. But we’d be hard-pressed to say that enthusiasm defines us now, least of all in the workforce. So how to recapture that feeling every day, especially at work? Wouldn’t it be remarkable to feel that passionate about what we do day in and day out? It’s not impossible. In fact, enthusiasm is a key to finding work-life balance. The challenge is getting there.
Confidence & Enthusiasm
In part, enthusiasm stems from being knowledgeable about what you do so you can discuss it in depth. But it’s also being confident about that knowledge. It’s knowing you have a good product and are excited to tell someone about it. That resounding belief and steadfast confidence translates across to others, enabling them to be swept up in those same emotions. Suddenly you have the ability to lead someone to that same goal. That is an empowering feeling.
“The act of being enthusiastic needs to recognize ineffectiveness but not be bogged down over it. It’s more important to see what’s not there and figure out how to fix it.”
Olga Alfonsova, Head of Business Development at PSI
Why does enthusiasm matter? More and more companies are using the workplace to help bolster employees and give them the tools they need to become confident in their jobs, and setting the stage for enthusiasm can be a powerful part of that process. Companies need to be a place where people feel valued and respected, and employees are demanding culture improvements now more than ever. In fact, companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%.
What does a company setting the stage for enthusiasm look like? It’s about creating a place for employees to test their limits. Even if they fail. Because building trust and allowing employees to discover their true passions means good things may develop. In this way, the company becomes an environment where hope and possibilities abound.
Connections Through the Right Energy
Now as then, we seek to connect. Especially at work. And being energized about something makes it easier. Whether it is talking with co-workers or meeting with clients, we want to reach out and impart that feeling to others or find that spark in someone else. It’s natural and instinctive.
According to scientist Matthew Lieberman, author of the book Social,
“…we have profound proclivity towards trying to understand the thoughts and feelings bouncing around inside the skulls of people we interact with, characters on television, and even animated shapes moving around a computer screen. Although we are far from perfect at gleaning the actual mental states of others, the fact that we can do this at all gives us an unparalleled ability to cooperate and collaborate with others – using their goals to help drive our own behavior.”
Our history is rooted in oral traditions. We’ve always been storytellers, shamans, bards. Films, books, and empowering speeches show that when you leverage storytelling you can empower others with that same passion, instantly connecting with the audience. Because shared experiences builds community.
Communication is the key to excellent service and having the right level of enthusiasm will make that job easier. A client is more likely to spend more time with a pleasant person rather than with one that isn’t. Make it clear that you’re there to help them and to make a difference in what they want to achieve. Networking is more about being genuine and being yourself.
Authenticity in Action
Not everyone is wired to be optimistic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be enthusiastic. After all, people will always have their own opinions. For some, it takes great effort to become animated about an idea. But zeal isn’t just about bouncing up and down and smiling broadly. That comes across as being merely superficial, which could work against you. Pretending to be happy does not achieve the same result.
The good news is if you’re already doing what you love, you’re over halfway there. Enthusiasm will flow more naturally.
The important thing is to just be yourself and stop following a prepared script. Most pitches sound like pitches even if you’ve given it a hundred times. Let you client know they matter, not the sale, because being authentic means you’ve allowed them to connect with you and understand your message on a personal level.
Just remember that the most important aspect of storytelling is being truthful. No audience wants to be tricked into believing or making a purchase. Somewhere in the heart of your story there should be a kernel of truth, a lesson to be learned, or an observation of life.
Some say enthusiasm cannot be taught, but the argument stands that enthusiasm can be caught. It’s a matter of energy. We smile when someone else does. We get caught up in someone’s boisterous laughter. Remember that woman with the Chewbacca mask? She infected us all with her rampant enthusiasm over a toy! Her genuine laugh, her unmitigated joy spread throughout the internet. None us really knew we wanted a Chewbacca mask until we saw how much joy it brought to one individual. Suddenly we all wanted to have that joy, too. For an instant, she made us feel what she felt by sharing her story. Truly, it can be as simple as that. The best way to catch enthusiasm is to hang out with people who transmit that enthusiastic vibe, because that energy is infectious.
It’s hard to be positive from day to day, especially if you are in a job that doesn’t promote it. But even making one small change to your outlook, can make a difference in making the day go smoother. Like considering the impact your work could have on others. It could help motivate you enough to finish the task. Or focus on something you do well and consider it your duty to make that shine.
Being Present, Bringing Presence
The bottom line is that enthusiasm remains a powerful tool of communication. From your body mannerisms to the pitch of your voice. The simple of act of leaning forward shows you are engaged in what the other person is saying. Something that basic can show the person across from you that you are actively listening and participating. Ken Burns the filmmaker once said that being prepared is one thing but being present is even more important. Showing your passion is much more effective than just saying you’re passionate.
Find that childlike spark of wonder in what you do and don’t be afraid to show it. Don’t be afraid to tell it. Being positive and having confidence will lead you to staying motivated, and it’s infectious. And really, that’s what enthusiasm is all about.