O is for Optimism

During ‘lock-down’, rainbows have become such a sign of optimism and spreading hope.  I’ve loved seeing all the handmade ones drawn on pavements or adorning windows in thanks to the NHS.

Optimism is key to navigating the times we find ourselves in at the moment.  Yet, whenever I talk about the benefits of having an optimistic outlook, I always feel the need to go to great lengths to discuss the difference between optimism and positivity as the former often gets a bad rap, often seen as being very Pollyanna-ish and not in touch with reality.  When I think about optimism I see at as a belief that the future is positive.  I’m not in denial of what is or pretending that everything is okay.  However, I know that my attitudes and behaviours will determine what the outcome looks like.  So if I focus on what I can do rather than what I can’t, it will lead to seeking out opportunities to reach my aim.

Science and research reveal that there are so many benefits from developing an optimistic outlook, for both our emotional and physical wellbeing.  I know that when I’m feeling optimistic, I am more

  • committed
  • energised
  • productive
  • engaged
  • curious
  • fun to be around(!!)
  • feel happier with life

I’m also more likely to give things a try and not give up at the first hurdle.

When I reflect, I recognise some key tools that have enabled me to develop my optimism.

I’m a great believer in having a growth mindset and looking at what we can learn from mistakes.  I love Carol Dweck’s work and in her book, Mindset, she mentions how important it is to use the word ‘yet’.  It’s become my ‘go to’ tool when I hear either myself or others say I can’t do this!  When you add ‘yet’ to the sentence it provides the optimism that I’ll be able to do it in the future.

Through my work with The Pacific Institute, I’ve realised that optimism is linked to the way we view the outcomes of events.  S##t happens!  Life can’t always be a bed of roses.  However, there are learnings from both the positive and negative experiences.  If something goes right, it’s good to ask yourself:

  • what did I do personally to make it happen?
  • how I can make it happen again?
  • how can I incorporate it into other areas of my life?

And when things do go a wrong, as they can, reflect on the element you were responsible for, understand that it won’t happen every time nor in all areas of your life.  It’s far too easy to allow our negative bias to take over and cloud our judgement.  I have a wonderful quote above my desk that says, ‘don’t let yesterday take up too much of today’ and it’s a great reminder about learning and moving on!

My support network is fundamental to keeping me my optimistic and energised.  Asking for help when I need it and working in collaboration with others is very important to me.  I try to find people who can help me achieve what I want to achieve.  This doesn’t mean to say they have to be like me, it’s often better if they have a totally different perspective.  The key is that we have the same purpose and values to find solutions.

Music is another generator of keeping me upbeat.  I recently heard this song –

Never Giving Up by Fearless Soul and I think it will now become my theme tune.  It’s so beautiful – I hope you like it too.

So during this crazy time in our lives, where lots has been turned upside down, what are you doing to remain optimistic?  It would be great to hear some of the tools and techniques you’ve come to rely upon.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this wonderful picture and leave it for you to decide whether it’s positivity or optimism that’s at play!

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