Listen Instead on The Extraordinary Life Podcast
This week I interviewed an extraordinary woman for my podcast, and I forgot to press “record” before starting. Ugh. While I was both embarrassed and frustrated, I chose to be optimistic about the situation instead. So, instead of this week’s planned content, I’m digging deeper into the power of optimism, and how you can learn to be more optimistic in your own life.
When the interview wasn't recorded, I felt terrible for wasting the person’s time. I apologized and she was nice about it, but I still felt bad. I could have kept it a secret from you but instead, I chose to talk about the experience on Instagram and in the Women’s Wellbeing Facebook group. I know that I’d want you to be easy on yourself if you did the same thing, so instead of being upset, I’m choosing to trust that when we re-record the interview, it will be even better. That’s right, I chose to be optimistic, even when things didn’t go as planned.
Right now I’m reading the book Twelve and a Half: Leveraging the Emotional Ingredients Necessary for Business Success by Gary Vaynerchuk. Even though it’s about business success, the things he talks about can apply to success in all areas of our lives. One chapter that really resonated with me was about optimism. The definition of it that he shares is:
Hopefulness in confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.
I consider myself a very optimistic person. In fact, I’ve had others suggest that my optimism is “delusional” because I trust that no matter how hard a challenge or situation is, everything will work out eventually. For the sake of argument here, I had to look up the definition of delusion. It’s “a false belief or judgment about external reality held despite incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, occurring especially in mental conditions”. I’m definitely not delusional then! Any delusions aside, let’s examine what pessimism is.
Pessimism is a tendency to see the worst aspect of things, or believe that the worst will happen. A lack of hope or confidence in the future.
I think Winston Churchill says it perfectly, though.
The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
I think I prefer to err on the side of optimism. When an optimist is faced with a problem, they find the upside and start figuring out ways to solve it. Rather, a pessimist throws up their hands in defeat. The thing is that most of the time, you can’t “decide” to not handle the things life throws at you. Living in denial of the problem doesn’t work and often makes things worse. The example that comes to mind is parenting a teenager. No matter how hard they push or act out, you can’t decide to “not deal with it”. Rather, you need to be optimistic and work to find solutions.
If we can’t avoid challenges in life, why are some people pessimistic about them? The full answer is complex and likely involves genetics and past experiences, so here is the simple one: some people are pessimistic because they are trying to protect themselves. They don’t want to be disappointed or be let down.
It’s been a big couple of years, and life has been far from easy. Many people are exhausted and overwhelmed, and I’ve even had to help my kids find their optimism at times. About a year ago, my daughter was feeling frustrated and pessimistic about global warming. She was feeling defeated that people weren’t doing enough or were ignoring the issue altogether.
I told her that if we believe there are solutions and are open to the possibility of change, the more we and others will see it. This is when you stay in your lane, do what you can do, be a role model for what could be possible, and align yourself with others who believe the same. This isn’t me just being optimistic, by the way, because your mindset really can influence the outcome.
Have you ever noticed that things usually turn out how you expect them to? If you feel like something will go well, it does, and when you feel like something is going to go badly, it tends to do just that. This is because you are in the driver’s seat!
When you’re hiking or biking a narrow trail on the edge of a cliff, you are supposed to keep your eyes on the trail. Why? Because your feet or bike will go where you’re looking. If you want to stay on the trail, look at the trail. Optimism is the same thing! Focus on what you want to happen, not the bad things that might happen, and you’re more likely to get them.
Consider the following statements about optimism. Optimists:
Optimists’ positive thinking probably is what makes all of the above true. When faced with challenging situations, they see them as “not that bad after all” or get through them faster. They’re confident that they’ll find a solution. This isn’t just sitting back thinking happy thoughts and hoping everything will turn out in the end. Rather, optimism is seeing the world positively and approaching your problems and situations with a positive attitude. And even when things are hard, you know deep inside that you’ll come out stronger and more resilient for overcoming obstacles.
When it’s hard to find the positive, try looking to your past. What obstacles have you overcome to get where you are now? Looking back, I bet you can find tons of evidence that you’re more than capable of getting through hard things. While you can’t always choose your circumstances, you can always choose your attitude. So why not choose optimism?
It’s a pretty empowering feeling to see the positive side of each challenge you come up against. When you have a positive attitude, you’ll take action to further improve your life and help others around you. It doesn’t mean that you won’t encounter difficult times, but you will have more power on your side to help you through them. You’ll bounce back faster and make choices that align with the life you want, rather than letting life wash over you. You’ll be proactive instead of reactive. Optimism puts you in charge of your own life.
If you’re reading this and thinking, “That’s all well and good, Crystal, but I’m not naturally positive. It’s just not me”, don’t worry. You can learn how to use your thoughts to change your attitude and how you feel. Becoming more optimistic is one of the biggest things you can do to improve your life! It won’t happen all at once but you can do it, one thought at a time.
Being more optimistic takes deliberate, conscious awareness of your thoughts and feelings, and then acting on that awareness. A great example came up in an interview I did a few months ago. Her coach had her set an alarm for random times throughout the day. When the alarm went off, she had to jot down her thoughts at the time. She found that most of the time she was feeling low-level irritation. It helped her shift those thoughts by acknowledging them, and realizing that she didn’t want to feel that way anymore.
You can try this yourself! Alternatively, if you catch yourself having a negative thought, stop and find the positive aspect instead. Over time, it will become a habit to be more positive about your life. Even better; optimism will help you create your dream life. How? As you become more optimistic, you’ll gain clarity on what you really want for your life because you’ll see more possibilities. And you’ll believe that you can achieve those dreams and goals. And then you’ll start taking the steps needed to get there.
On the other hand, if you’re pessimistic, those dreams seem too big and unachievable so why even bother trying? I know which path I’d choose.
Working on your optimism “muscles” isn’t always easy, but I’m here to help. In the Extraordinary Life Tribe Group Coaching Program, we use the High Performance Habits and a curriculum to create self-awareness and positive momentum. Along with the community of like-minded women, I’m here to help you work through any challenging or self-sabotaging thoughts.
Until March 24, 2022, I’m offering FREE Group Coaching sessions on Thursdays so you can experience exactly what group coaching is all about. You’ll get thirty minutes of teaching and coaching, learn a bit about the Extraordinary Life Tribe, and have time for a Q&A session. Sign up here, and I’ll see you soon!
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