It’s easy to sing the praises of optimism when life is going well – when you have a roof over your head, plenty to eat, a job you enjoy, friends and family who support you, and money in the bank.
But can you still choose optimism if …
- You grew up in the inner city and feel threatened by traditional authority and locked into a future of hopelessness?
- The culture where you work is dark and lifeless?
- You’re living with personal tragedies that have created enough baggage to fill a cargo ship?
- You feel drained by the constant bickering of an increasingly divisive nation?
- You moved to a new place and feel lonely?
- You feel misunderstood, even by those closest to you?
- Or you just woke up on the proverbial wrong side of the stinkin’ bed!
I’m convinced that optimism is a critical trait for success in life. Research backs that up, but so does observation. Think about it: You never hear these descriptions of a successful leader …
- “She built a great company despite the fact that she always told us she felt doomed to failure.”
- “He really inspired me because he always had such a sour look on his face.”
- “He shot down every idea we had, which really encouraged us to keep trying!”
- “She outlined everyone’s faults and weaknesses, so we built tremendous trust in each other as a team.”
We all have bad days, and we all have baggage. Yet, we also all have something else – a choice about our attitude. It’s one of those things others often influence but that only we control.
It probably sounds trite, but that doesn’t make it untrue. Controlling our physical self plays a role in building emotional health. Take a deep breath and smile. It will help reduce your stress and increase your optimism.
If you live in America or any other first-world country, then you can start your gratitude list with that blessed reality. Look at the things you have and the people you appreciate. You’ll soon remember how many reasons you have to be thankful for your present, which will give you hope for your future.
Embrace the right “What if?” question
There are two basic versions of the “What if?” question. One focuses on all the possible things that can go wrong. This version fills our hearts with fears and trepidations. The other allows us to paint a picture of victory that’s been snatched from the jaws of defeat. What if we figure this out? What if I spent some time with that new person? What if I found a new way to look at that problem? What if I made a better effort to understand the pain behind that other person’s attitude? What if …?
Embrace the right “So what?” question
Optimism doesn’t guarantee positive results; in fact, we can rest assured that we’ll always have troubles in life. So what? There’s an old saying that all sickness is not death. In most situations we face, a setback or failure is little more than an opportunity to learn and re-orient our path toward something good. We can wallow in worry, but then our failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Or we can have confidence that the worst that can happen isn’t really that bad and choose optimism.
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