Optimism is an indicator of your positive attitude and outlook on life. It involves remaining hopeful and resilient despite occasional setbacks.
It is a crucial differentiator between leaders who are successful and those who are not because it permeates almost every other application of emotional intelligence such as personal perseverance and motivation, inspiring others by understanding their emotional influences, and self-regulation of your own emotional state and its bias.
Optimism is also one of the 4 pillars of well-being or happiness. In the face of setbacks and disappointment, which contributes to how happy we are feeling, optimism is the ability to recuperate your state of happiness. Optimistic individuals experience happiness more personally, more permanently, and with greater justification than those who are less optimistic.
Something to consider is that, one can be optimistic for others and their goals or abilities, while being less optimistic of their own goal achievement and success.
WHY is this?
Often this stems from a negative habit of comparison. Comparing yourself to others has an adverse affect on our self-regard. By lowering our self-regard, which is also one of the 4 pillars of well-being/happiness, we risk questioning our values, performance, decisions and ultimately lower our happiness.
Under the EQi-2.0 model, Optimism is balanced with:
Self regard – respecting oneself while understanding and accepting your strengths and weaknesses.
Interpersonal relationships – the skill of developing and maintaining mutually satisfying relationships on the foundation of trust and compassion.
Reality testing – the aptitude to remain objective by seeing things as they really are and recognizing when emotions or personal bias can interfere.
Before we continue…let’s just pause to be clear about what optimism ISN’T.
It isn’t naivety, wishful thinking, or rose-coloured glasses. Often, optimism, it is improperly defined in this way, because, when left unbalanced with self-regard, interpersonal relationships, or reality testing, it can appear as these things.
If optimism is high and reality testing is low the possibility is naivety – pushing through setbacks and difficult circumstances despite all the signs that one should stop and change course.
If optimism is high and interpersonal relationships are low – relationships that do not serve your purpose or align with your values could be ignored until they become catastrophic; you explain away people’s behaviours seeing only the good in them.
When optimism is high, and self-regard is low – we see ourselves through rose-coloured glasses and attempt to do things that we are not equipped to do; putting ourselves and others at risk for failures that no one would be able to survive from. It’s like the person who things they can jump the chasm, believing they’ve got the physical strength to do so and they have the positivity to will it to reality, only to jump to their death.
And what about the reverse?
When optimism is low and reality testing is high – the realism of everything outweighs any resiliency or hopefulness for the future and everything is bleak and headed for ruin.
When optimism is low and interpersonal relationships are high – relationships are a step away from dissolving and catastrophizing about the success of any friendship sabotages it’s success.
If optimism is low and self-regard is high – there is constant questioning of our abilities; are we as good as we think we are? Probably not and so none of our talents will help us to succeed in anything.
Development of one’s optimism is seemingly simple. However, changing any thought pattern requires watching yourself like a hawk! Pay close attention to the following and use these strategies to start elevating your optimism. The payoff is that you will also build your resiliency! Optimism is a key ingredient to our ability to rebound from traumatic events.
Strategy #1: Change Your Words
Words have power. There are toxic words and wonder words. The goal is to use many more wonder words than toxic. This shift in our language will create a most positive ambiance WITHOUT tipping us into a ‘delusional, rose-coloured, everything is awesome’ world.
· Stall your initial reaction with a positive statement followed by a question. “That sounds promising. Have you considered…?” This trains your brain to move toward positivity before considering the dangers that may be involved and boosts a more positive mindset while still considering the realities that may be lurking.
· Ask questions to understand perspectives. If you find yourself criticizing other’s ideas or solutions, it is always going to be better if you ask questions to clarify. The role of devil’s advocate is intended to only see the problems. Try a different role – one rooted in curiosity. “I’m curious about the steps you took to arrive at this solution.” “This is something I hadn’t considered; would you be able to talk me through how you got to here?”
Strategy #2: Focus on Your Strengths
Remember that you have talents and these need to be leveraged with positive emotions. By focusing on your strengths, and playing to them more often, you set yourself up for ‘FLOW’; the state within which you perform at your optimum. FLOW promotes feelings of happiness which boosts your optimism.
- Make a list of your strengths. Asks those that you know are in your corner, when they believe your strengths to be. Make sure you are looking for opportunities to play to your strengths. For example, if you are an exceptional public speaker, volunteer to present at the next team meeting.
- Delegate tasks that do not jazz you up! If you aren’t in a position of delegation, trade tasks with teammates by getting to know their strengths and weaknesses. It’s like opening your lunchbox in grade school to find a homemade oatmeal raisin cookie. You hate raisins. Your friend opens to find a Joe Louis. They hate chocolate. Low and behold…because you know this…you trade sweets! It’s a win-win!
Strategy #3: Practice Gratitude
Gratitude turns what we have into enough. The concept of gratitude will not be new to some however the practice of it may be. Often, the resistance to practicing gratitude is that it must be all touchy feeling or that it’s following some sort of a trend or even that it’s not ‘manly’ to do such a thing.
Here are a few ways in which gratitude can be practiced in a way that allows you to benefit from its power.
Past-Present-Future. Think of a past hardship that you have overcome and give gratitude for having come through it. Think of a present person, place, thing that you are grateful for and acknowledge its value. Think of the things that are on their way to you that you will be grateful for.
My Top 3. Start the day by whispering the top 3 things you are looking forward to. Try this while making your morning coffee/tea/breakfast, while brushing your teeth, while in the shower.
One A Day. Just like vitamins or medication you take daily, create a 1 a day gratitude jar. Every day, place 1 thing you are grateful to or for into the jar. At the end of the week, read through those things. If there is anyone you need or want to share these things with, feel free to extend your gratitude to them. If you want to rally the troops, consider doing this with your family – provide different coloured pens or paper for each person or have them initial/sign the paper before putting it into the jar.
End on a High Note. Keep a journal at your bedside and before you slip into your deep sleep, capture what you are grateful for from that day. Be as specific as you can. Write as many as you need. It’s not a competition. Some days will have 1, some days will have endless amounts.
The implications of developing your optimism are notable in 2 primary areas:
By developing your sense of optimism, when you encounter adversity, you will be able to overcome the challenge, learn from the situation, and inspire others to do the same. Your personal well of resiliency will grow deeper and deeper, arming you with the skills to overcome challenges and see their purpose for your growth. By inspiring others, you will help them to push through and actively tackle problems by seeing 360 around it, by practicing gratitude for what they have, and for knowing everything they need, to succeed, is within them.
Your deep well of resiliency because of your optimistic outlook, will propel you to creative problem solving. You will be able to see things that you hadn’t before because you didn’t believe they were possible for you. Optimism opens more doors!
Your optimistic demeanour will permeate to others, allowing them to follow in your footsteps. You’ll be able to lead and influence others in a positive way. This type of an environment opens the doors to creative thinking and problem solving. Others will benefit under uncertainty because of this change in optimism!
So, go ahead, be optimistic. Balance this development with self-regard, interpersonal relationships, and reality testing so that you don’t swing too far into wishful thinking. Strike the balance to thrive in your strengths, leverage the power of your relationships, and see things as they truly are while remaining hopeful for the future!
As an EQi Practitioner I can help you identify and understand your current emotional intelligence. Not only will this identify your current level of optimism and it's related EI skills, it will assess 5 realms and 15 skills for emotional intelligence.
Contact me if you're interested in knowing more!