To reach your outcomes, you need to be an optimist

Even if the world seems to be crumbling down

As 2011 draws to a close, with the economy appearing to be sliding down, and Eurozone's debt going exponentially up, I sometimes wonder if there is any rhyme or reason in all of this. Times are getting tougher, that's a fact. Kind of stormy would be a better description. But times are also getting new. And different. Times that do require a better innovative stance and a clear strategy to make things happen. Whoever recognizes this upfront will be better off in the times ahead of us.

That's why you need to be an optimist.

That's the rational choice. Being a pessimist will only let you in the dust. You can't keep the required drive and energy if you let the pessimist side of you takes over. I am not a natural optimist mind you. The more I look in depth, the more educated I become, the more reasons I get to be pessimistic. Call that being a realist. That's what you also get from having been formerly trained as a civil engineer: a talent for seeing what could be wrong and how to prevent it from happening. A talent for precision and sharp understanding through cold-blooded examination. That's what makes planes safe and bridges okay to cross. And machine guns effective. But that's not what gets you to your top goals. What keeps you 'safe' isn't what makes you reach your top 3 outcomes (if your outcomes are to be safe, all right. Then what about keeping it so in the long term?).  

 Beliefs are key

For getting to your top 3 outcomes, you need to believe that it will be okay despite hardship, that hardship is only transient, and that you have all the resources you need to succeed. And that you can brush off failures as something that is not associated with you personally. That events or others made it so. Not you. You need to believe that you are better than others at the game. You need to believe that opportunity is there and will show up. You need to believe that you can find out all the help you'll need when the time will come. In a previous newsletter, I told you about the fact that luck is where preparation meets opportunity. As a matter of fact, preparation includes a serious edge towards optimism. Getting there All right, but how to turn optimisitic when the general slant of the population is towards pessimism? (We have a kind of depression epidemia upon us in the western world, burnouts abound, as do deeper or masked forms of depression. So, if you are in a medical condition, nothing I say here will be of any use, check with your doctor first). Some key insights:
  1. Realize that optimism is a learnable competency. Yes, it is.
  2. Get educated about positive psychology. Recommended reading: Martin Seligman's learned optimism.
  3. Focus on leveraging your strengths. Stack the odds in your favor by taking the road that helps you instead of the hardest road of all.
  4. Build a support system and get rid of pessimistic mavens that chant doom and gloom. Especially if they do that for a living.
  5. Formulate a strategy and focus on making it true by executing, nothing beats sharp focus when it comes to leaving pessimism behind. Action and anxiety are mutually exclusive.
  6. Take time to relax. When the storm comes, the most exhausted get taken away first. The physiological informs the mental. And back. Without a conscious decision to take care well of yourself, how could you ever be optimistic?
  7. Check you diet. Eating crap with tons of sugar will for sure not help keeping you positive and optimistic when sugar and insulin take you to a roller coaster ride thrice in a day.
  8. Make space for fun. All work and no play makes anyone a dull person. How optimistic can one feel when chained for all day long? My dog isn't. Why would you?
  9. Naysayers can only go so far. Do not become one, it will not help you in any way. You do not want to develop any "create own deep frustration" skill, right?
And do not become nervous about becoming too much of an optimist: hundreds of thousands of years left enough of a trace to keep you safe in the world no matter how optimistic you become! Wishing you a (very) happy (wonderful) new (optimistic) year, Optimistically yours!