The Power of Optimism: 7 Strategies for Becoming a Glass Half-Full Person
Times are tough and many people are struggling to stay optimistic given the state of the economy, the insecurity of their jobs (if they have one), the size of their mortgage and the strain that puts on relationships at home. Maybe you are one of them or maybe you know someone else who is having it tough.
But just because we can find lots of reasons for feeling down and becoming a bona fide pessimist doesn’t mean that we should. The fact is, optimism creates opportunity and pessimism kills it. Expecting good things to happen will lead to taking actions that produce positive results. Expecting only more bad stuff to come your way will keep you from doing the very things that might have minimized or avoided just that!
The word “optimism” actually derives from the Latin word “optima,” meaning the best outcome or belief in the greatest good. As I said during my recent interview on the TODAY SHOW, while some people are naturally more optimistic than others, ultimately we all get to wake up every day and choose whether we are going to be a glass half-full, or a glass half-empty person.
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Below are 7 strategies for filling up your cup of optimism. My challenge to you is to try at least one of these and notice the difference it makes to your outlook and your life.
1. SET YOUR INTENTION
Before you step out of bed (and if you forget, before you leave your home) take one minute to set your intention for the day by coming up with one word that resonates with you about the attitude or spirit you want to bring to the day. Being intentional acts like a compass and helps you better focus your time and energy. For instance, if you’ve been looking for work but have found yourself stuck in a rut and procrastinating, you might choose to be proactive and set yourself a goal of making at least 5 calls/emails today to follow up on job leads and opportunities. The intention you choose will vary according to the challenges you are facing.
QUESTION: What is your intention for the rest of today? To be more assertive, organized, focused, tenacious, self-reliant, resourceful, determined, persistent or patient?
2. PERFORM AN ACT OF COURAGE
Often the very thing we need to improve our circumstances requires courage. That is, closing the gap between where you are now and where you would like to be in life will require stepping outside your comfort zone and doing something that scares you in some way. It could be picking up the phone to invite someone to dinner, attending an exercise class or having a conversation with your boss about an issue that’s been upsetting you. There is no better way to build self-confidence than doing something that stretches you as it teaches you that you are capable of more than you thought you were.
QUESTION: What would you do today if you had no fear of failing or looking foolish?
3. REFRAME A PROBLEM INTO AN OPPORTUNITY
You can’t solve your problems by complaining about them. But you can solve them (or if they are unsolvable, learn to accept them) by reframing them so that you can approach them from a new angle. To quote Einstein: “Problems can not be solved at the same level of thinking at which they were created.”
Where pessimists see problems, optimists find opportunities. If you change the way you look at your problems, your problems change and transform into a rich array of opportunities to grow, learn and discover inner resources you never knew you had!
QUESTION: What opportunities does your most pressing problem offer you? (I promise you – they are bountiful!)
4. AVOID ENERGY DRAINERS
Optimism is contagious. So too is pessimism. If you are struggling to feel as positive as you would like, don’t spend your time hanging out with “emotional vampires” – those people who suck the life out of you with their complaints and commentary about everything that is wrong with the world (and the people in it). Choose your company wisely and limit the time you spend with people who don’t fill your cup of optimism and “can do” self-confidence.
QUESTION: Who do I need to spend less time with and who can I arrange to spend more time with?
5. CARRY YOURSELF LIKE AN OPTIMIST
If you change how you hold yourself physically, it will change how you feel emotionally. Scientists have actually proven that how you present and carry yourself on the outside has a huge impact on how you feel on the inside. Slump your shoulders, pout your bottom lip and look down to the ground and optimism (and opportunity) will elude you. But stand tall, chin up, smile and engage with people as though you were the outgoing, confident, optimistic and successful person you aspire to be, and you will attract all sorts of positive people and opportunities into your life. People will relate to you differently and you will gradually begin to feel differently (and more positive) yourself. Don’t feel like it? Do it anyway! The old saying “Fake it ‘til you make it” is literally true.
ACTION: Stand tall, smile and watch your reflection in the mirror as you move. What does how you carry yourself communicate?
6. LIGHTEN UP
Why is it that comedians tend to live very long lives? It’s because they have become so masterful at finding the humor in even the most unfunny situations. While it’s not always easy to see the lighter side of things, it’s always helpful. Humor is a highly effective antidote to almost every ailment, anxiety or adversity! Watching a funny movie and spending time with a really funny friend is litterally medicinal!
QUESTION: If you were taking a lighthearted approach to your challenges, what would the joke be?
If you are one of those people who never exercises, then I’m sorry, I know you hate to hear it again and again but EXERCISE IS VERY GOOD FOR YOU. Not only is it great for you physically, but it’s a very potent drug for making you feel better psychologically. As your heart starts pumping, your body releases endorphins into your system which not only burn off stress but also allow you to view your life and challenges through a more empowering and optimistic lens. Seriously, what’s not to like about exercise? (Besides doing it?)
ACTIVITY: Get outdoors and go for a brisk 20 minute walk (or run) and note how much better you feel afterward (my only condition on that is please don’t do it in sweltering hot weather like we have in Virginia today!)
Please try one of these strategies today and let me know how it helps! As an optimist, I am sure it will! 🙂