The importance of optimism

Rachel Brushfield explores the benefits of optimism and how to embrace it

Optimism-choicesAre you half-full or half empty? Living or just existing? Do you keep positive whatever life throws at you and see it as opportunity to learn and grow, or do you feel like a victim, at the
mercy of life’s events, thrown around like a rag doll in a hurricane?

In reality most people are either optimistic or negative to a degree and this changes depending on the situation.

Most folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be. (Abraham Lincoln)

You are thinking negatively when you fear the future, put yourself down, doubt your abilities, or expect failure. Do you do any of those things?

You may not be able to control 100% of what happens in life, but you can choose your response to what happens and your attitude. Our world can seem like a depressing place to live in, but since the human race have created it, they can also create something better and change it.

Why be optimistic?

A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in
every difficulty. (Winston Churchill)

So why be optimistic, apart from the obvious point that when you are, you feel better and
more positive?

• Optimism makes life more enjoyable – it tends to create positive emotions which make us feel good
• Optimism is catching – it’s like laughter: if you are positive, so are the people around you and it spreads
• Studies show that optimists are winners in good times and better survivors in hard times, e.g. concentration camps
• Optimism is a key factor for success in life. Some of the most successful innovations (e.g. the light bulb and many books such as Lord of the Rings) suffered plenty of problems and rejections in their inception, and if it wasn’t for the boundless optimism of their creators, they wouldn’t be here.
• Optimism really pays off when you are faced with a life problem, setback or challenge as we all are at one point or another in our lives
• What’s going to happen is going to happen anyway, so you might as well make the best of it, otherwise what’s the point?
• Optimism is good for your health. Research has proven that a healthy dose of positive thinking boosts your immune system so you stay healthy and keep illnesses at bay
• People perceive us based on how we perceive ourselves, which stems from our personal values and beliefs. We are responsible for what happens because we have created it

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What stops optimism?

• Negative thinking damages confidence, harms performance, and paralyses mental skills and potential. Often we are so used to negative thoughts flitting in and out of our minds that we stop noticing them and the damage they are doing
• These ‘gremlins’ that live in our heads and go on and on ranting negative garbage at us. We listen to the critical judgments, don’t take action against them and then feel bad about doing nothing. It’s one big vicious circle and downward spiral
Limiting beliefs about yourself: I’m not intelligent enough for the promotion; I’m not creative so couldn’t do it anyway
• We have amazing minds and imaginations that invent all sorts of scenarios. We can end up worrying about what might or might not happen instead of dealing with the present. We find uncertainty scary as we can’t control it
• Perceived or actual threats or danger: terrorism isn’t fun but if you think about what might happen you won’t be enjoying life very much
Regrets, if onlys, what ifs about the past – things that you can’t do anything about because they have already happened, but you mentally beat yourself up anyway
• Repetitive illness and stress
• Tendency to depression
• Blaming others rather than taking responsibility for our own lives and happiness and taking steps to change. Attitude is everything

10 simple tips to help you be more optimistic

1. Thought police – monitor your thoughts and notice what you worry about. Keep a stress diary which will shed
some light on what you worry about and what to do about it.

2. Spend your time with positive and upbeat people. Avoid things that drain your positivity – depressing stories and negative people. Think of this as food and what effect it would have if you were eating toxic or poisonous foods.

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3. Get to know your gremlins – negative self-talk or mental chatter that can create
negative thinking. Acknowledging these is important so that you can let them go.

4. Look after yourself – eat good food, drink water, get enough sleep and exercise
because these things help you to feel optimistic.

5. Check out the Chicken Soup for the Soul books – inspiring real life stories of people overcoming adversity.

6. Pamper yourself and take time to recharge. Shiatsu is great for this, especially if you
are going through a transition as many of our clients are, and especially if you suffer
from SAD syndrome or are prone to depression.

7. Don’t spend all your time regretting the past or living in the future; the only time you
really live and know that you can is RIGHT NOW, so focus your attention in the present
moment and enjoy it.

8. Have clear goals and know where you are heading and how to get there, but be
open to whatever occurs along the way.

9. Buy some self-help books or get yourself a personal coach – there is a wealth of
useful resources around to help you stay optimistic.

10. Set aside a specific 30-minute time slot each day to focus on your worries and stresses. For the rest of the day choose to be present and as optimistic as you can.

About Rachel Brushfield

I am a director at Energise, The Talent Liberation Company and based in Charlbury, Oxfordshire; tel 0845 22 55 010; I help people to change career and work better and specialise in career reinvention.