“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope.” — Helen Keller
As the famous expression asks, “Is the glass half empty or half full?” If you see a metaphoric glass as half full, you are considered optimistic while the half empty response considers you pessimistic. First off, what is optimism? Optimism is having a tendency to look at events and situations from your favorable perspective. If you are already optimistic, this post will help enforce your optimistic mindset and help you pursue the ongoing optimistic lifestyle. If you are pessimistic, don’t worry! This post will provide reasons why it is worth making the switch, and how to do so. For those that are still skeptical, we will conclude with some common misconceptions about optimism and how to address them.
1) Optimism and happiness are closely related.
There are no free handouts to happiness. Instead, happiness is a state of mind that has to be cultivated and developed. When you are optimistic and look at the favorable side of each perspective, the positive aspects of the situation seem to multiply compared to if you had looked at the situation from a neutral or pessimistic perspective. This is because you are intentionally paying attention to the positive aspects, you notice more of them. When this is applied to each and every area of your life, the positive aspects all tend to add together and provide more happiness in life. Additionally, if you are pessimistic, it is harder to be happy since you are looking at each situation with a negative framework in your mind.
2) Optimism leads to a healthier life
Those who are optimistic tend to have longer and healthier lives. This includes less likelihood of diseases and stress while having a stronger immune system and better blood pressure. When we look at optimism and how the different areas of health relate to each other, this makes sense. If we are constantly stressing ourselves out and looking at the negative aspects of life, this lifestyle is going to weaken our immune system thus making us more susceptible to higher blood pressure, higher likelihood of sickness or disease, along with the other negative effects of stress. Even if none of the other reasons seem appealing to you, if you would like to increase your chances to living a healthier and longer life than optimism is the way to go. Of course, don’t just take my word for it. Feel free to look at the countless articles and studies that support the relationship between optimism and health, such as the post from Harvard that can be found here.
3) It’s critical for success
Optimism provides a bundle of benefits, and in order to achieve success, it is critical that you have optimism on your team. Not only are there several proven health benefits to optimism, but there are bound to be additional benefits that have yet to be proven! By being optimistic, you are receiving both proven and unproven benefits of optimism. Best of all, optimism is free! As you embark on the journey to success, you are bound to face setbacks and challenge along the way. By being optimistic, it can help you deal with those challenges and make goals that surpass what you think you are capable of! Success might not always be in sight, but optimism will help make the vision clear.
4) People are drawn to those that display optimism
Have you ever heard someone say “He’s always so happy!” Or “She’s always so positive”? These are examples of thoughts someone may have about an optimistic individual. When someone is optimistic, we tend to be drawn to the positive energy they display. We like when people support us and show us the best in situations rather than focusing on the faults. Often times, optimism is contagious so you might be able to make someone else optimistic just by promoting optimism yourself! Being optimistic is a subtle but effective way to improve your relationships and have people drawn to you.
5) It promotes resilience
Resilience is the ability to overcome a challenging or stressful situation. In addition to happiness, optimism is also related to resilience! What a wonderful group of characteristics in a happy family! Everyone, regardless of if you are optimistic or pessimistic, faces challenging situations. By being optimistic, you are able to bounce back from the situation faster because you are prone to looking at positive aspects of situations. This will lift you up from your prior difficulties and build your level of resilience, which is critical for success.
So do you have pessimistic tendencies but would like to make the switch? While the switch doesn’t happen overnight, with applying these strategies on a regular basis you will notice a shift towards an optimistic perspective.
1) Recognize your current outlook on activities, people, habits, and life.
Before becoming optimistic, you have to realize your current outlook. Study how you respond to situations, activities, and people in your life and the habits that support these responses. Throughout the day, notice your pessimistic responses and how that changes the situation.
2) Think of the positive aspects of the same situations.
Now that you realize how you respond to situations, it’s time to think of positive responses you can think, or say, instead of the negative responses. Think about how the switch in responses will change your day, your relationships with people, ultimately changing your life.
3) Replace the negative with the positive.
Now that you have given this some thought, it’s time to place it into action. At first, being optimistic may seem unnatural or forced. If you get discouraged, remember the reasons that you decided to be optimistic. Remember all the benefits to being optimistic and why you embarked upon this journey and how it will help you reach success.
4) Practice, practice, practice!
Similar to most things in life, making the switch takes practice. For best results, do this continually and it will get easier. By surrounding yourself with other optimistic people, it will make your job easier as you will feel infected with all the optimistic behaviors, attitudes, and habits that are flowing among the group. A good exercise to help become optimistic is what I like to call the 3 per day, write away. Each night, before you go to bed, write down three good things that happened that day. They don’t have to be huge achievements, it could be something simple like ‘the weather was nice today.’ By physically thinking and writing out three good things that happened to you each day, you are training your brain to seek out the positive aspects of situations and cultivating the habit of optimism.
Misconceptions on Optimism
There are also some misconceptions about optimism, reasons that people don’t make the switch to optimism. Let’s look at four popular misconceptions about optimism:
1) Not being realistic
Some people may say that they aren’t optimistic because being optimistic isn’t “realistic.” The truth is, looking at only negative aspects isn’t realistic either! Every situation has positive and negative aspects. In order to be realistic, you need to be able to acknowledge both sides but then focus on the positive. The focus on the positive is what optimism is all about.
2) Optimists are always happy.
Optimists, just like pessimists, are human. We all experience sadness and all the other unpleasant emotions such as sadness, frustration, guilt, fear, etc. The difference is, optimistic people focus on the positives. We look at the silver lining in negative situations and do our best to bounce back when a challenge comes our way.
3) Optimists don’t see errors or flaws.
Just because optimistic people don’t focus on errors or flaws, doesn’t mean we don’t see them. In fact, ignoring errors and flaws can be troublesome too. Instead of ignoring problems and flaws, optimistic people work on fixing them, and focus on the strength they need to motivate them to fix it.
4) I have always been pessimistic, I can’t change now.
“You don’t understand, I have been pessimistic for years! I can’t change now!” If you have been pessimistic for years, there should be even more of a reason to make the switch! Fortunately, the switch from pessimism to optimism can be done and it is very rewarding. Many of people have done it. If others have done it, so can you.
Being optimistic isn’t a one-time mission. It’s an ongoing process that needs to be cultivated and maintained to provide the best results. While being pessimistic may seem like an easier option, optimism will provide much more aid on your way to success. Optimism has many rewards, and I hope they all serve you well.
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