As an optimist myself, I know first-hand the power of optimism and the benefits it has on all areas of life.
Highly effective, optimistic leaders have a transforming effect on their teams: they have the gift of being able to convince others that they can achieve levels of performance beyond what they thought possible. They move others from being stuck with “how things are done around here” and help them see “how things could be done better.”
Consider, as well, the reverse. Those who have a pessimistic outlook typically approach changes to the status quo with the familiar: “We tried this before”, “It won’t work”, or “It will never fly.” Such individuals often label themselves as “devil’s advocate.” How can someone who has a pessimistic outlook embrace change over the safety of the known?
Countless studies have shown that people with an optimistic outlook have healthier relationships, enjoy better mental and physical health and live longer.
So, where does optimism come from? Is it something we are born with or is it learned? For some lucky individuals, like me, being optimistic comes naturally. The good news is that, for those who don’t have it naturally, optimism is an attitude that can be learned and practiced. Here are some strategies to consider in your journey to becoming more optimistic or in helping someone else who suffers from pessimism:
- Avoid negative environments. If this is not realistic, make every effort to seek the company of positive individuals in your organization.
- Celebrate your strengths. The key to high achievement and happiness is to play out your strengths, not correct your weaknesses. Focus on what you do well.
- Take care of your spiritual and emotional well-being by reading inspirational material on a daily basis.
- Manage or ignore what you cannot change. When faced with setbacks, identify what you can change and proactively try to find ways to do something about it.
- Learn to reframe. This involved deliberately shifting perspective and looking for the hidden positive in a negative situation: the proverbial silver lining.
- Adapt your language and outlook. Consider how a simple shift in the language you use can make a difference in your outlook: do you frequently say: “yes, but….” in response to your constituents’ suggestions? The “but” automatically negates anything you have said in the beginning part of the sentence. A simple shift to “yes, and…” might make a positive difference.
- Focus outside yourself, on important people in your life, on pursuits and projects that fire you up.
- Nurture a culture of optimism when you are in charge of other people at work. Expect people to succeed. Even when they occasionally fail to achieve what they set out to do, encourage them so that they can tackle the next challenge. A simple: “I know you’ll do better the next time” can have very positive effects.
- Cultivate spontaneity. Getting out of your comfort zone by being spontaneous helps to develop your optimistic muscle, as spontaneity essentially involves an expectation of having a positive experience.
You can do it! Make this part of your growth plan for 2020 and see how contagious your optimism can be! Practice seeing the opportunity.
CEO and Founder, Aha! Leadership
Winston Churchill had a reason for saying: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”