“Optimism is the foundation of courage.”
~Nicholas M. Butler~
Sandra sighed in annoyance when Carlos, her coworker, who bounced into the office humming an upbeat tune. Their team had just lost a major client, and he seemed clueless about how that might affect the company.
Over lunch, she vented her frustration to her great mentor—and to her surprise, her mentor told her that Carlos had exactly the right attitude. “Sandra, optimistic people have many life benefits that pessimists just don’t share,” she told her. “You see optimism as naïve. You’re analytical; you don’t want to believe anything that’s not based on solid reasoning. But here’s the thing—optimism is actually the most rational approach. Optimists aren’t just choosing to see things differently; they’re actively creating a better reality for themselves. Trust me, it works.”
Boosting Your Health
People that are optimistic have healthier hearts, a 2015 study by the University of Illinois found. To double your odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health, become an eternal optimist, according to the authors. Optimists also take more consistent measures to improve their physical health—whether they have a chronic illness or not—thereby improving their outcomes, say Suzanne C. Segerstrom, Charles S. Carver, and Michael F. Scheier in The Happy Mind: Cognitive Contributions to Wellbeing. Increased immunity is another benefit of optimism, they add. In other words, optimism can help you live longer and enjoy a better quality of life.
Improving Mental Wellbeing
Because pessimistic people also have an eight times greater risk of depression, optimism can also boost your mental health, says Elsevier in Job Readiness for Health Professionals. Optimism also helps people cope with stress and become less overwhelmed. They tend to head off stressors early on, often keeping them from getting as big, Segerstrom and her coauthors note.
Viewing Failure as Opportunity
Rather than viewing failure as a catastrophe, people who are optimistic start looking for potential new beginnings right away. They don’t deny that problems exist—they’re proactive about solving them, say Segerstrom and her coauthors. They make creative leaps toward other possible futures, taking calculated risks, and they’re not afraid to move beyond their comfort zone. Their lack of fear makes them excited about possibilities they may not have envisioned, rather than anxious about them. Because they believe solutions are possible, optimists focus relentlessly on achieving them.
Branding Yourself as Capable
Optimistic people brand themselves as capable and confident. Thus, they’re more likely to be seen as leaders, people whom others trust. Their optimism gives them a natural charisma, causing others to gravitate toward them.
Building Workplace Morale
Optimism is contagious, as Shawn Murphy says in The Optimistic Workplace. Optimists inspire others to reach toward greater heights, frequently using motivational words. When others witness an optimist achieving seemingly unreachable goals, or staying the course through a difficult time, they’re more likely to act more ambitiously themselves. They also make others feel good about themselves and excited about the future. All this creates a positive feedback loop, as people perform at their best when they’re feeling positive, says Murphy.
Optimists tend to advance further in their careers than pessimists, according to Elsevier. They don’t self-sabotage by placing arbitrary limits on themselves. Plus, all the qualities discussed above give them a definite advantage over their pessimistic counterparts.
Optimistic people tend to enjoy stronger relationships with family and friends, say Segerstrom, Carver, and Scheier. They work more effectively at solving relationship challenges, and they maintain social connections through times of stress, the authors explain. Plus, they keep a healthy work/life balance.
Sandra no longer saw Carlos as clueless and naïve. Each morning when she went in to work, she gave herself permission to feel excited about the good things that might happen that day. At their weekly lunch, her mentor would ask her to share all the successes that had happened, both large and small. As a result, Sandra found herself focusing on them. In doing so, she gave them more power than the petty annoyances and perceived roadblocks that had previously dominated her focus.
To improve your quality of life and achieve your work career dreams, cultivate an optimistic mindset, as Sandra’s mentor advised her. Even if you’re a natural pessimist, it’s never too late to start.
Need more support in cultivating an optimistic outlook? Contact Joel for his executive coaching services.