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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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