“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”
-Helen Keller (1880 – 1968)
If you’re ever in need of inspiration, take it from Helen Keller. She was blind, deaf, and wrote 12 books.
Still got excuses?
March is Optimism Month, and it's a month you need. Let’s kick it off with some zest.
Maybe you started off your new year with resolutions that aren’t quite working out. Maybe you’re afraid it’s time to give up. Maybe this article is exactly what you need.
Top 3 Optimism Myths Dismantled
Before we talk about what optimism is, let’s clarify some common misconceptions and talk about what it is not. Here are the top 3 myths about optimism.
#1) Optimism is Blind and Naive
Many people see optimists as people who are eternally and naively positive about what will happen in the future regardless of the facts. An optimist would likely be described by non-optimists as delusional or not in touch with reality. However, an intelligent optimist looks for the lessons and opportunities in every situation. It’s the opposite of a defeatist mentality.
#2) Optimism Makes You Lonely
Some people believe that optimism will make you lonely because most people lean more on the pessimistic side. However, optimists tend to attract other optimists. Successful people also attract successful people. And when optimistic people join forces, the psychological, emotional, and physically tangible results can be earth-shattering. Research shows that optimism also leads to more friendships. This suggests that even pessimists want to be around optimists.
#3) Optimism Makes You Happy All the Time
People who are optimistic deal with all of the same suffering that neutral or pessimistic people do. Optimism is no escape route. The only difference is that when optimists experience anxiety, sadness, and other terrible emotional states and experiences, they tend to dust themselves off afterward and get back up anyway. They choose to see the potential for progress despite setbacks.
So, What is Optimism?
Here’s another great quote about optimism by Winston Churchill.
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
While optimism can be difficult to practice for some people, it is exquisitely simple in theory.
Optimism is a mental attitude reflecting a belief or hope that outcomes will generally be positive.
Again, this isn’t to a degree of delusion. Although, some optimists could certainly be considered delusional.
For example, Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech literally begins with “I have a dream.” This means that it did not exist in reality at the time. Some would've said He was a visionary.
Vision without optimism remains a dream forever.
Optimism has been shown to have a positive effect on nearly all aspects of health.
Staying alive is a pretty high priority for most people, and optimism is linked to life longevity. Conversely, the study found that pessimism is linked to mortality.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, optimism also plays an important role in recovery from illnesses and diseases. Numerous studies have shown that people are not only more likely to bounce back from disease when they get sick, but it even increases the likelihood that patients would recover from potentially fatal diseases like cancer.
If that isn’t enough, optimism has even been shown to improve athletic performance.
Imagine staring at the basket from the free-throw line sincerely believing that you probably won’t make it. Guess what will happen?
If you’re a pessimist and you’ve dealt with tragedy, you know exactly how bad it can get. Any sign of potential hope in the future seems to be completely nonexistent. The tragedy can just envelop you and take you a very dark place.
Evidence suggests that optimism is crucial for dealing with difficult life events. Researchers found that optimistic people had better responses to various challenges from the mild (adapting to college) to the intense (coping with missile attacks in times of war.
You can probably see how all of this plays together and spreads throughout various aspects of life.
Out of all the people you know, which pessimist is the most successful? Right, almost none of them.
This is not a coincidence.
In one study, it was shown that sports teams with more optimistic outlooks had more positive synergy with each other and performed better than pessimists.
In another study, researchers found that optimistic salespeople had incredibly higher results than those with more pessimistic tendencies.
In yet another study, pessimistic swimmers believed they didn’t do well were prone to poor performance in the future. Optimistic swimmers did not have this issue.
To put it simply, optimists just don’t give up as easily as pessimists.
For the most part, it’s because they don’t consider failure to be the end. It’s like the classic song, “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You ain’t ever gonna keep me down.”
This song speaks volumes about the importance of optimism.
Optimism doesn’t mean thinking everything is great all the time regardless of outcomes. It’s having the courage and the belief to turn things around despite the failure.
This is why we love Rocky so much. It’s not because it’s a boxing movie; there are hundreds of those. The reason why people love Rocky is that he’s a symbol of never giving up despite difficult circumstances.
“It’s not about how hard you can hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and still keep moving forward.”
How Can I Become More Optimistic?
Life is not black and white. Don’t worry that you might be considered a pessimist. That’s the first step of being optimistic about optimism.
Understand that you can change your mindset because us humans are lucky enough to have something called neural plasticity. This means we get to change our own mindsets if we really want to. But it takes time and practice.
Here are some tips to begin cultivating an optimistic perspective:
Focus on Solutions, not Problems
If you notice that you’ve been thinking about a problem for quite a while, feeling negative, and/or experiencing some self-doubt, ask yourself this question:
What’s one thing I can do to improve this situation?
All of a sudden, your focus has shifted towards solving problems rather than simply dwelling on the problems themselves. If you begin to practice this regularly, you will be blown away by how much better you feel.
Create a Vision and Replay It in Your Mind
Since optimism has to do with having a positive outlook on past and future events, what can you do make sure you’re optimistic about the future? The answer is to create a vision.
The reason why this is so important is because there has to be a truly compelling vision in your mind for you to look at in times of distress and failure.
Otherwise, you’re attempting to feel optimistic about the future, but the only image in front of you is what just happened, which could be devastatingly negative. You need to have some kind of aspirational, emotional image of the future to motivate and push you through those tough times.
The word “practice” is crucial here because being grateful is not something that comes very easily to most people.
Most of us tend to become complacent and take things for granted.
No matter where you are in life, there will always be something you can complain about. There will always be things that bring us down. And there will always be something to be grateful for.
As many times as you can throughout your day, remember the things that you’re pretty dang lucky to have in your life.
Some people struggle to even get clean water so they can live for the next few days. Remember that, and broaden your perspective.
If you’re even reading this article, that means you have eyes that can see, and you have the Internet. There is ALWAYS something to be grateful for.
What are you grateful for? Let our community know in the comments below.
Let's inspire each other.