Last week I explored the attributes of optimistic and pessimistic people in my article Learn to be more optimistic PART 1 and how to identify them through their explanatory style. The fact that optimism can be learned and actively applied through some tried and tested techniques is something we can all embrace in our personal and work lives, regardless of exactly where on the scale our natural levels of optimism lie.
Taking steps to actively be more optimistic will have a massive impact on your quality of life. Some of these benefits of being more optimistic are:
Optimists enjoy better health: Studies have found that people who are generally more optimistic at age 25 turn out to be much healthier later in life between the ages of 45 and 60 than their more pessimistic counterparts. Optimists also report better mental health than pessimists, with significantly lower levels of depression.
Optimists live longer: Studies have shown that optimistic people tend to live longer than pessimists, with less health complications.
Optimists stress less: It stands to reason thatoptimists not only experience less stress, they also cope with it better. They tend to be more resilient and recover from setbacks quicker. Rather than becoming overwhelmed and discouraged by negative events, they focus on making positive changes that will improve their lives.
Optimists are more motivated: Being optimistic and more resilient means you are more determined and less likely to give up when problems and challenges arise. Pessimistic people tend to give up easier and become easily discouraged when negative events happen. When trying to lose weight, for example, pessimists might give up because they believe diets never work. Optimists, on the other hand, are more likely to focus on positive changes they can make that will help them reach their goals.
I’m fairly optimistic already but how can I be more optimistic? Simple – just follow these techniques.
Optimism shouldn’t be confused with happiness. Being optimistic doesn’t mean that you ignore life’s stressors, you just approach hardship in a more productive way. Optimism is a glass half-full mindset that enables people to view the world, other people and events in the most favourable, positive light possible.
When adverse situations arise, notice your internal dialogue. Last week we explored the dialogue tendencies (or explanatory styles) of pessimistic vs optimistic people. Write down the beliefs about those events that come to your mind; the actual words you play in your head. Feel the consequences of those beliefs, in terms of your emotions, energy and will to act. Then try to re-word the dialogue using the opposite sub-sets of each category and notice the difference in how it makes you feel about the event/ situation.
When you are thinking in a way that is not going to help you feel resilient, interrupt your flow of thoughts by saying or doing something unpredictable. One suggestion is to wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap it saying “stop” to yourself to interrupt the negative thoughts. Then write the worrisome beliefs, fears, etc. down to think about at a set future time. This leaves you free to act, whilst creating some distance from you and the thoughts. You are not your thoughts. It might sound crazy but these are proven techniques to help learn to lead a more optimistic life and they do work over time.
When you notice your thoughts are not helping you be more resilient, write them down and question the accuracy of every word – like “always”, “never”, “everyone” etc.. Playing devil’s advocate to your negative thinking will allow you to challenge the words you are using. Notice what happens to your energy and will to act when you dispute the negative beliefs. Over time, the disputation becomes rapid and effective as the energisation from it rewards you for the effort. Eventually, the positive explanatory style becomes your “default” response.
By following the above steps you are actively putting some distance or perspective on what you are saying and the event itself. Think to yourself, does this event really matter in the big picture of things? In 20 years will this really be a definitive moment in my life, will it matter? Is it a fact or is it just my belief?
Start applying these techniques to your life today and see if you notice a difference to your levels of optimism and resilience.
Could you and your leadership team do with one of my tailored workshops? I’d love to share my experience and fool-proof leadership techniques with you. Don’t hesitate. Get in touch today.