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How You Can Become An Optimist Easily

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How You Can Become An Optimist Easily

Why all this talk about how you can become an optimist easily?  The answer is that optimism is one of the essential ingredients that makes you successful. That is what Jeffrey Garten, Dean of the Yale School of Management found when he interviewed the top most successful entrepreneurs in the world. Yes, all 40 of these CEOs were optimistic.

As if this was not enough, optimism is the gateway to better health and a more active, rewarding social life. Being an optimist means that you are less likely to get a heart attack or cancer. This research was carried out at The University of Pennsylvania.

Before beginning, take the optimism test which has been devised by the BBC Horizon TV program.

How did you do? If you got full marks, there is no need to read on! If you got a low score, stay on this page because I am going to give you 12 useful tips on how to become optimistic.

1.Don’t let past failures stalk you

In many ways, you can be a prisoner of your past as you keep on carrying past failures with you, like heavy luggage. Convince yourself that these failures are a closed book and that you need to throw out this unwanted trash. Not that the lessons learned from failures should be forgotten!

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Look at Oprah Winfrey. She was told she was not suitable for television. Thomas Edison had to cope with 6,000 failures before succeeding in making the first electric light bulb.

2. Time for stock-taking

First, think of all the positive things in your life. Note them down on a list. Then in a second column write the obstacles, problems and failures. This second list is essential as you can note with asterisks what was the lesson learned from each of those debacles. You are now coming round to the idea that failure is part and parcel of life. But you need to be upbeat and confident. Onwards and upwards.

“No matter where you are on your journey, that’s exactly where you need to be. The next road is always up” – Oprah Winfrey

3. Think positively

When you look at the list again, you notice that the list of positive things will be longer. There are so many things to be grateful for. Many potential failures became successes. Look at your achievements again. Think about your positive character traits.

4. Optimism empowers you

“Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier”- General Hillier

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General Hillier was well known for advocating how important it was to remain optimistic when soldiers faced terrible dangers in Afghanistan. He told his staff that it was their duty to display optimism and communicate that to their soldiers. This is the path to success. In addition, optimism costs nothing!

5. Try smiling

“Smile, it’s free therapy” – Douglas Horton

Try scowling at people and you get nowhere! Try smiling and see what happens. You will most probably get a smile in return. Smiling brings loads of benefits. Study after study shows that it can help you live longer, cut stress and even boost your competence. Your popularity will rocket. It will also help you to remain cheerful. Zero cost!

6. Limit your exposure to bad news

We are surrounded by negative news, 24/7. Turn on the TV, computer or smartphone and there is a deluge of tragedy, extreme weather, death, destruction, crime and injustice. If you watch or absorb too much, it will drown your positive thoughts.  Pessimism will start taking a hold.

7. Give yourself a present

Think of an achievement you have had at work or in a personal relationship. Celebrate your success by praising yourself. But this is just not for successful achievements. If you can apply this to how you have cleverly analyzed a screw up, then you really are on a winning streak. If you find yourself saying: – ‘OK, I screwed up but I now know why- it was because I forgot to do X, was misled by Y and was careless about Z’. Now that really deserves a prize because you are poised for success the next time round.

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8. Build on your success

The next time you face a challenge, list your achievements to date. Each success is a milestone along the path of life. Just by keeping this in mind, you can remain optimistic. It also helps your self-esteem.

9.Think big

If you are an optimist, going for gold is no problem. You just have to watch out for the cynics and the pessimists along the way. There is nothing to be ashamed of in aiming for the stars.

“Find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it– Daniel Dennett

10. Put negative events into perspective

Inevitably, things go wrong sometimes. This is a fluke and not likely to be a regular occurrence. It is a one-off!

11.Use the power of language

If you have to lead a team or even manage a personal relationship, it is vital to be able to use conversations as vehicles in which you can inspire and motivate people to embrace optimism. There is no substitute for a real live conversation.

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12.  Focus on the solutions

You meet pessimists every day at work. They are the ones who complain and start telling you about all the obstacles, problems and difficulties. If you are an optimist, you will be able to use upbeat language and start to find a solution. Once your brain is wired into thinking about solutions, answers and success, you will be much more optimistic.

Before you get up every morning, think about why today is going to be a great day. Say to yourself: ‘Today is the day I am going to achieve X, Y and Z’. It is a great way to start the day and you will never look back.

 “No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.” – Helen Keller

Featured photo credit: Thumb up from Laura/ Active Steve via Flickr

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More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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