God knows there’s enough pessimism in the news to make you want to slit your wrists. And I’ve noticed that many people seem to have fallen into the dark pit of doom and gloom. I’ve even caught myself peering over the edge of the pit on occasion; so if you think you could be headed down the same slippery slope, join me on this mission to make optimism a habit.
Let’s look at the differences between and optimists and a pessimists:
Expect the best
Believe the future will be brighter
Focus on possibilities
Give people the benefit of the doubt
Are problem solvers
Look for the good in bad situations
Want what they have
Know they can handle whatever comes their way
Act like owners of circumstance
Expect the worst
Believe the worst is yet to come
Focus on all that is wrong
Are quick to judge and alienate people
Are problem identifiers
Can’t see beyond their problems
Want what they don’t have
Believe they wouldn’t be able to handle it
Act like victims of circumstance
With all the craziness and adversity in our world today, it’s not uncommon for any of us to be caught off guard, and slump into a state of doom and gloom, from time to time. But when an optimist starts to feel her self slip, she’ll grab onto something solid and start clawing her way out. A pessimist will usually just let go and free-fall her way to the bottom.
Do you realize that “how” we respond to situations starts with one simple thought? It’s true. We think before we speak or act. And it’s typically an impulsive internal reaction (to that first thought) that determines what we say or what we do.
Let’s say you’re stuck in traffic. Chances are, you’re first thought will be either “Oh no” or “Oh well” If your first thought is “Oh no”, you’ll likely tense up and even act out to relieve your frustration. If your first thought is “ Oh well”, you’ll likely re-direct your thoughts to make the best of the situation.
So the secret to making optimism a habit, is learning to be aware of, and manage the first thought that pops into your mind. Here’s a process you can practice to get you started:
- Choose a recent situation, that you wish would have gone betterNow, rewind that situation back to the very beginning
- Write down what you were thinking before you said or did anything
- Ask yourself:
- Was this just a thought or was it a fact?
- How did I react when I believed that thought?
- What if I had believed that the thought was just temporary?
- How could I have changed the thought to make it more optimistic?
- Try it on:
- Now, change the thought around until it feels more optimistic (make several tries)
- What would be different if I believed this new thought?
- How could this new thought be useful and even a blessing?
- And finally, create an action plan to learn how to stop and think deeper before I speak or act.
Once you get good at this, you can learn to stop and manage your first thoughts on the fly.
Did you know studies show that optimists are happier, healthier, and have stronger relationships, than pessimists? I guess it stands to reason that we get back what we put out into the world.
Please don’t get the impression that I’m endorsing “blind optimism” here. If we’re going to survive these turbulent times, we need see things for what they are and take appropriate action. But even the worst of catastrophes are a little easier to handle with positive thinking.
Just experiment with it for the next week. Let me know what happens by posting your comments here.