Fit leaders are optimistic and always try to see the glass as half-full. When a leader chooses optimism, he or she also chooses vitality and success.
Martin E.P. Seligman, a former President of the American Psychological Association and a pioneer in the field of positive psychology, has been studying optimists and pessimists for 25 years.
In his national bestseller Learned Optimism (Pocket Books, 1990, 1998), Seligman writes that pessimists react to setbacks with a “presumption of personal helplessness”. Pessimists believe that bad events will last a long time and are somehow their fault.
On the other hand, optimists react to setbacks from “a presumption of personal power”. They view bad events as temporary setbacks that are isolated to particular circumstances. Optimists believe they can overcome bad events through their effort and abilities.
The way you define your circumstances determines whether you are optimistic or pessimistic. When you choose optimism, you inoculate yourself against the feeling of helplessness and strengthen your emotional competence, which leads to increased productivity.
Here are five simple tips that will get you on the road to optimism:
1. Know that most bad things are not permanent.
When something goes wrong, try not to blow things out of proportion. Ask yourself if the negative effect is permanent. More often than not, it’s only temporary. Optimists realize that most bad events are fleeting and will not permanently alter the course of their lives.
2. Give yourself credit for positive events.
When something good happens, take time to pat yourself on the back. Celebrate your strengths and think about the ways you contributed (both directly and indirectly) to this accomplishment.
3. Cut yourself some slack.
Pessimists often blame themselves for every negative event. But when things don’t go as planned, it’s not always your fault. Consider the extenuating circumstances that could have contributed to the bad outcome. Not every failure is caused by one of your own personal weaknesses.
4. Remember there’s always next time.
Instead of dwelling on your mistakes, try to think about how you can do better next time. When you start to embrace failures as powerful learning experiences, you’re beginning to think more like an optimist.
5. Challenge your negative thoughts.
When you catch yourself thinking negatively, stop, take a deep breath and make a conscious effort to change your thought pattern. The more often you challenge negative thoughts, the more natural it will become for you to think like an optimist. Before you know it, you’ll be finding the positive in almost any situation.