I cover many issues related to stress and performance on this blog and they do all play their part in determining the level of success which you will achieve. Things such as planning, productivity and communication are absolutely essential, if you wish to fulfil your potential. However, there is another factor which impacts every area of both your working life and your personal life. That is the attitude which you adopt towards setbacks. I have previously covered some strategies for overcoming setbacks but before you can even implement these strategies, you need to be optimistic. To be optimistic does not mean that you delude yourself into thinking that you can just sit back and everything will sort itself. To be optimistic means that you believe in your own ability to succeed, and to learn from your mistakes and implement new strategies to achieve your goals.
When I was at the beginning of my working life, I had a serious lack of confidence. When things went wrong, it felt like the end of the world and I did not know how to cope with situation. Fortunately, I came across an excellent book called ‘Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life’ by Martin Seligman. The book addresses the importance of an optimistic outlook and how it can be implemented to improve your confidence and your results. In the book Seligman highlights 3 key differences between optimists and pessimists.
How to be optimistic
If you wish to be optimistic, you need to ensure that you adopt the following 3 attitudes, as highlighted by Seligman in ‘Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life’:
1. Believe that it shall pass
Pessimists react badly when things go wrong. They are overcome by a feeling of permanence; a belief that what has gone wrong shall remain that way. To be optimistic, you need to understand that having a bad day does not mean that your entire life is going to be bad. It just means that you have a bad day.
Whatever has gone wrong today; you must believe that you can get up tomorrow and take action to get yourself back on track. Of course, you must acknowledge that things have not gone to plan but where pessimists would give up; optimists just identify, and implement, the necessary action to adjust the plan and get back on course to achieve their objectives.
2. Remember that it is only one part of your life
When something goes wrong in one area of their life, pessimists tend to feel the impact across all areas of their life. To be optimistic requires that you be able to compartmentalise your life in so far as is possible.
For example, if you lose your job, you understand that it does not make you a bad parent. While the job loss may have some impact on your role as a parent e.g. budgets; you can feel bad about losing your job while still remaining 100% confident in your ability as a parent. For pessimists, the loss of their job would impact on their entire sense of self-worth.
3. Don’t blame yourself
To blame yourself is to accuse yourself of screwing up or of not giving your all. The blame game is pointless. Pessimists tend to blame themselves, and beat themselves up over the smallest of mistakes. While it is actually more optimistic to externalise blame i.e. blame others, I do not believe that is the healthiest approach to take.
A true optimist will avoid blame as much as possible. They will accept that they can only do their best in any given situation and they will understand the importance of learning from their mistakes. Rather than focus on blame, when you choose to be optimistic, you choose to focus on what can be changed. To get lost in the blame game is to get caught up in the past. An optimist is focused on moving forwards. They simply identify the things that they can change in order to improve their results. Then they take action and move on.
Optimism is a critical component of strong self confidence. If you struggle with your self confidence, check out Unbreakable Self Confidence.
To be optimistic is one of the most basic, yet one of the most important aspects of a success mindset. Optimists believe in themselves and are never afraid to take action in pursuit of their objectives. Perhaps more importantly, they believe in their own ability to rectify the situation when things do not go as planned. Optimism does not guarantee success but it leads to a greater chance of successfully achieving your objectives. The great thing is that whether you are pessimistic or optimistic, the choice is yours. So, why not choose to be optimistic?
Image credit: Roxana Gonzalez