I’ve been on a journey of becoming more Optimistic over the past few years. I’ll admit that, for many years, I lived with a tendency toward feeling “guilty” and even a bit “fearful” about getting everything done or having the business I needed to make ends meet—I was often the first to:
- Wonder: “Whew, we made it through last month but I wonder if there will be enough to pay the bills once again next month,”
- Think: “I must have done something wrong,”
- Worry: “What will she think of me if I speak my true feelings or don’t agree with her way of thinking?”
- Question: “Why is that other person having so much success—I’m just as talented! What’s wrong with me?!”
Anybody relating?! As a coach, I KNEW these thoughts were hobbling and not helping.
Neuroscience researcher Shawn Achor notes that when our brains are happy (positive, optimistic), they are 31% more productive than when negative, neutral, or stressed.
Optimism comes with varying levels and dimensions. Here are two worth considering:
Speed: How quickly can you get to Optimism when you encounter an unpleasant surprise or “bad” news? 5 minutes? 5 hours? 5 days? 5 weeks?
Sustainability: How long can you sustain your Optimism? Does it come in a 90-second wave and then die down, or is it something that is sustained hour in and hour out, day in and day out, regardless of the external circumstances in your life?
Coaching Tip for Speed and Sustainability:
1. To increase the Speed of Optimism: Link your optimism to an already-anchored habit in your life—a tip recommended by Stanford psychologist BJ Fogg, creator of www.tinyhabits.com. This anchored habit might be something like drinking coffee or brushing your teeth or using the restroom.
Train yourself to access optimism when you do your anchored habit. For example, “when I drink my morning cup of coffee, I will access my Emotive Optimism for 68 seconds.” (See Rational Optimism and Emotive Optimism tips).
Just as a pianist practices scales and arpeggios in private before performing cadenzas in concert, when we’ve practiced speeding to optimism during non-stressful circumstances, it will be easier to speed to optimism during stressful circumstances.
2. To increase the Sustainability of Optimism: Once you’ve increased your speed to optimism, turn your focus to sustainability. Because the brain loves specificity, give it a goal of being optimistic around an isolated situation for an extended period of time.
For example, “For the next 5 minutes, I’m going to expand my focus around the good things associated with this project (such as, the blog post I’m writing, the phone call I’m having, the bills I’m paying, the dinner I’m cooking).”