I have a question for you. Do you tend to see the glass half-full or half-empty?
How you answer that question can reveal a lot about who you are and how you view life.
Thousands of years of human history has shown us that people who tend to experience real success have a more positive, optimistic view of life, themselves, and the world.
Now I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I hear the someone say that people need to be more positive, I can quickly go to an image of a flashy, loud, almost too good to be a true, slick, fast talker, whose primary motivation is to talk you into some deal. I guess I have been a little jaded over the years.
However, here is some excellent news. The type of cartoon character in no way represents a positive or optimistic person.
In this article, I will help you understand what it means to be an optimistic person. And one of the great things is that even if you don’t see yourself as an optimist, you can learn to become more optimistic.
Part of experiencing true success and understanding the power of optimism is to understand a little about resilience.
Resilience is the ability to cope with and overcome whatever life throws at you.
Need some motivation – check this out this video!
A resilient person works through challenges by using personal resources such as strength, faith, effective relationships as well as other resources such as hope, optimism, and self-efficacy (their belief in their ability to act). When a resilient person takes a hit, personally or professionally, they tend to not only bounce back to normal but are able to move forward.
Being resilient is also an essential component of optimism.John Thurman
Being resilient is also an essential component of optimism.
Before we jump in, I think it is essential that we look at some basic definitions or optimism.
Sonya Lyubomirsky, UC Riverside shares the various types of optimism practically.
Little Optimism: General optimism about day to day circumstances, being able to make it through the day, meet your obligations.
Very Small Optimism: The lowest form of optimism, but the comforting belief that you will make it through the day.
Full Disclosure: Although being positive/optimistic is talked about as if it is one thing. It is entirely possible to be optimistic in some regions of our lives but pessimistic in others. After all, last time I checked, we are all human.
Let’s take a look at the practical side of the idea of Optimism.
Dr. Caroline Dweck, author of The Growth Mindset, and Dr. Elaine Fox’s, Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain have written some keen insights into this type of optimism.
A closed-minded person sees problems, as setbacks rather than opportunities. An optimist, on the other hand, they to be more alert to opportunities, less risk-averse and tend to be “all in.”
Fox writes, “Dispositional optimism is not just about being happy and upbeat, however; it is more about having genuine hope for the future, a sincere belief that things will work out, a deep abiding faith that they can deal with whatever life throws at them. Optimists are not naive they don’t believe that nothing will ever go wrong, but they do have a deep-seated conviction that they can cope. Optimists have a natural tendency and faith to accept the world for what it is but have a deeply held belief that the way you deal with things determine who you are.
A considerable part of being an optimistic person is a proper understanding of being in control. The opposite of this is feeling like the future is hopeless can make a pessimist passive since everything they attempt seems to fail. In sharp contrast, an optimistic person believes that their actions matter and that they have active input into their outcomes.
Being an optimistic, hopeful person is more than feeling good and upbeat, it is truly about being intentionally engaged with a meaningful life, becoming a more resilient person, and feeling in control. This, in my opinion, is significantly enhanced when one is actively engaged in their faith.
Here is a great, short lesson from a former astronaut
Practiced Optimism and Resilience
So, what are some of the benefits of learning and being a more optimistic person? What are some realistic expectations if you make a choice to become more optimistic?
- Increased happiness and a sense of well-being. Optimistic people tend to be happier, partially because they perceive positive events more vividly and expect good them to occur.
- Increased positive emotions and strengthened relationships. Because optimistic people generally have a more upbeat mood, an increased sense of personal vitality, and a strong sense of self. They feel they have some control over their destiny. As a result, the positive energy radiates out because positive people tend to be easily liked by others.
- Less negative emotions. “The defining characteristic of pessimists is that they tend to believe bad events will last a long time, will undermine everything they do and that all of these negative things are their fault. The optimist on the other hand, when confronted with the same hard knocks of this world, think about misfortune oppositely. They tend to believe that defeat is just a temporary setback and that there will be a way to overcome or adapt positively. They think that they have what they need or know how to access help if it is required.
- Improved health. Optimist, as a general rule of thumb, live longer and are less likely to die from accidents or violent acts because they tend to take active steps to protect themselves.
- Improved performance. Optimistic, positive people tend to put more genuine effort towards their goals and dreams. In a nutshell, they tend to be more successful because they have commitment and tenacity.
- Better coping skills which lead to increased resilience. As a general rule, optimists tend to cope better with adversity because they face it and on a deep level believe that they can rise to the challenge. One prominent person who comes to mind is Michael J. Fox who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991. He puts it this way, “Optimism and hope related to how we think and feel about the future. If we really believe that things will work out for the best, all setbacks become easier to deal with.
- This can lead to a more vibrant faith that is able to find contentment and peace regardless of circumstances. The Apostle Paul said, “Not that I was ever in need, for I was never in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I have discovered the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty or little. For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13
Would you like to take the free Learned Optimism Test designed by Dr. Marty Seligman, Just click here!