075 The light and dark forces of optimism

There’s tremendous power in being optimistic. And some pretty serious pitfalls too. We examine the light and dark forces of optimism.

The light and dark forces of optimism

This week’s Inspire Me quote:

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement…no pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.”—Helen Keller

There are many kinds of optimism. A few terms that psychologists classify include:

  • Dispositional optimism is the expectation that on the whole more good things than bad things will happen in the future.
  • Comparative optimism expects better outcomes for yourself relative to another in a similar situation.
  • Situational optimism is the expectations of a good outcome in a specific context.
  • Realistic optimism is maintaining a positive outlook within the known information at hand.
  • Optimism bias is when we render more weight to information if that information is favorable or beneficial to us.

Being an optimistic person has many advantages:

  • Makes you more likely to persevere.
  • Makes you more likely to attract people to help you.
  • Makes you more likely to be healthier and live longer.
  • Makes you more likely to connect to your purpose.

Negative people, persistent difficulties and internal shame can threaten an optimistic disposition. Regardless of the many benefits of being optimistic, there are some significant pitfalls. These constitute the dark side of optimism:

  • Tendency to underestimate effort. Overconfidence in getting things things done forms the seed of procrastination; there’s always enough time.
  • Tendency to take inappropriate risks. We may jump into things we have not thought well through in the belief that everything will work itself out, regardless of whether we have control over the factors that may contribute to failure.
  • Tendency to ignore important information. Optimists rely on previous experience and when the situation is volatile they are less likely to consider the information that is most important to a good decision.

Nevertheless, we can guard against these dark-side tendencies and increase our level of optimism. Here’s a few ideas:

  • Associate with positive people.
  • Focus on a hopeful future more than the regretful past.
  • Practice habits of gratitude.
  • Focus on what you can control.
  • Eat the toad. Work on the thing you’ve been avoiding.
  • Get older. As people get older they tend to focus on positive things more often than negative.

This week’s Challenge Me:

Think about the most optimistic people you know. When was the last time you spent time with them? Be intentional about meeting with optimistic people.

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