Optimism is the ability to look at the bright side of things- to see the glass as half full rather than half empty. Optimism leads to a more enthusiastic and energetic engagement with all that we do and in this lesson we will look at what we mean by optimism and how we can exercise it at the workplace.
- Being optimistic: Optimism can be both future directed as well as guided by the past. Our brain uses the same region to think about the future as it does for remembering the past. Thus, the way you think about your past influences the way you think about your future. While optimism is this generalised expectancy that good things will happen in the future, say at the workplace; it is build up by how we explain the good/bad things that have happened to us in the past. Someone with an optimistic explanatory style will explain a good event like promotion as due to stable and global internal qualities like working hard or being knowledgeable; while avoid explaining negative events like a customer loss in terms of global and stable internal qualities , like not being good at sales. This means failures are temporary and not reflective of global internal deficiencies and can be overcome. This leads to more resilience, energy and commitment to one’s work, in the face of obstacles which are inevitable.
- Being hopeful: Similarly, hope is more than wishful thinking. It comprises of three parts- goals, will and pathways. First you can only be hopeful about something if you have it clearly defined in form of a cherished outcome or a goal. Secondly, being hopeful entails having the confidence in one’s ability to execute the task and achieve the goal. Lastly, obstacles and difficulties are inevitable, so if you are really hopeful instead of giving up on first obstacle, you will figure out early on what all obstacle may happen and have alternate plans A , B and C. One setback is not the end of the world and there are multiple pathways to success.
- Boosting optimism: One quick way to boost optimism, is to imagine yourself transported by a time machine 5 yrs in the future. In this future, everything has turned out exactly as you wanted, you have worked hard but have been able to achieve all your dreams and wishes; now write for 15 minutes about what you imagined and how a typical day at work looks like. This ‘best possible future self’ exercise has been shown to reliably boost optimism and happiness. So go Visualize. If you can see it, you can be it!
Apart from increasing happiness and resilience, optimism leads to all sorts of positive outcomes like increased energy; good health, both physical and mental; increased immunity from disease; increased grit i.e. passion and perseverance; and more entrepreneurial success. Hope as we saw involves having clear goals; in the next lesson we will take a look at how to set awesome goals in the work context.