Establishing the ground rules of optimism
How to be positive when the rest of the world isn’t
By Howard Feldman
The road of life isn’t always happy. It has potholes and bad drivers and broken robots. Being happy isn’t about beaming with positivity as you navigate these challenges, it’s about recognising that there are things you can change, things you cannot, and that you can be an optimist amidst it all.
Most people want to be optimists. Few people enjoy feeling negative and bleak. The problem is that it is far easier to say that you want a positive outlook than it is to actually achieve one. Yes, social media’s roadside is covered with the litter of wellbeing slogans and profound insights and the nuggets of wisdom required to live a conscious life. But life isn’t lived through a social media feed. It is lived through laundry, tax returns, chewing gum on a shoe, being cut in front of on the road and admin. It sounds fabulous to say that you should live each day as if it is the last but realistically, few people would choose to spend their last day on Earth sorting out invoicing with Debbie in accounts. Even Debbie.
There is also no such thing as a natural optimist. Someone who blithely skips through life’s hurdles as if they are nothing more than a minor inconvenience. Like anyone, they have to work at being positive. It’s a craft that requires resilience, focus and commitment. Anyone can bulletproof their outlook and find an alternative pathway to gloomy realism. Here are four simple steps to laying the foundation of an optimistic outlook…
Honesty really is the best policy
Changing your perspectives and adopting a more positive outlook requires that you understand yourself completely. An unflinching, totally honest appraisal of how you think, what informs your thought processes and what feelings dominate your thinking allows you to identify areas of change and areas you love. You can’t change something if you don’t know that it exists.
Cautious is cool, but also oppressive
There will always be people that say ‘I told you so’. They’re the same people who carefully navigate through life, rarely take chances and forget to live. They will also be the ones who tell you everything that is wrong with your ideas, your dreams, the country and the world. They haven’t spent time building the resilience that will allow them to step out, take chances and experience exactly how much control they have over their lives. This doesn’t mean you should rush out and spend your savings on that boat you’ve always wanted. It means that you need to trust in yourself and take those chances on your ideas and dreams because that’s how you build resilience and hope.
You can learn it
You can change your thought processes. You’ve probably already done it at least once. Remember back to a time when you felt as if you could do anything, that the day held infinite potential. Those are the moments that should define how you approach the challenges that life presents.
Focus on the good stuff
You just fell off the stage, you ran out of gas, your kid says she hates you and your boss gave you bad feedback. Absolutely brilliant reasons to feel terrible or define the day you are having as bad. But you can practice on reframing these moments. This is not the same as going ‘Gosh well I am SO lucky I could be on a stage’ or ‘I am blessed to have a car’. Those statements may be true, but in a moment of bleakness and a day of darkness they feel trite and social media-esque. Instead, reframe it as ‘Yes, that was awkward and embarrassing but before that I was doing really well’ or as ‘I am being a great parent and that means that sometimes my child is going to be mad at me for what I have said’. Focus on what you’ve done right, just for a bit.
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