“An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; a pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity.”Winston Churchill

Imagine you are 18, a bomb goes off on the humvee you are driving in Iraq. A million thoughts are going through your head. You aren’t even supposed to be here. You are supposed to be a football star. You watch as your hand melts unrecognizably.

You are brought to the hospital to treat burn injuries with more than 30 reconstructive surgeries. Your face will never look the same. Everything has changed, and you have no say in it.

That’s exactly what happened to JR Martinez. He could have easily and understandably allowed bitter “why me” thoughts to infiltrate his mind. Instead of slowing down, he’s making the most of it.

“Life goes on, “ he says. “I don’t know the purpose of this, but if I have a good attitude, stay positive, continue to smile every single day…something good will happen to me.”

Since then, of course, JR has had the opportunity to star on All My Children and Dancing With the Stars. He has also been sharing his story of optimism across the nation.

True leaders are optimistic. They have to be, in order to be successful. Not in a Pollyanna sort of way, but in an “I can make this work” sort of way. In our book, we remind you that events are neither inherently good or bad, but rather our interpretations of things that create “goodness” or “badness”.

Some key characteristics of optimists can be valuable in times of turmoil. [taken from http://www.shelbycounselingassociates.org]

• Optimists look at life’s troubles as learning opportunities.  When they face a difficult obstacle and overcome it, they know they can create a different outcome next time.  So, every problem becomes a tool in their ability to handle future trials.

• Optimists tend to have something they can get excited about.  They have hobbies, play sports, travel or have something outside their life’s routine about which they are enthusiastic and into which they can escape and refresh themselves.

• Optmists expect good things to happen.  They greet each day with a sense of anticipation and a strong belief that something good may happen to them that day.  Their focus on that anticipation crowds out feelings like dread and foreboding.

• Optimists are dreamers.  They daydream about what they’d like to be doing, places they’d like to go, about love, success and so on.  These daydreams elicit feel-good hormones which reinforce their optimism and promote good health and rewarding relationships.

•Optimists smile.  The simple act of smiling also releases feel-good chemicals in the brain.  Even a “pretend” smile releases these chemicals.  The more they smile, the more they feel like smiling.  In addition, the more they smile, the more positive reactions they receive from people around them.  Smiles are like yawns…they’re contagious!

•Optimists write positive stories in their minds.  They tend to imagine positive outcomes to problems and imagine themselves as successful or even heroic.  They take difficult life situations and write internal scripts which have happy endings rather than imagining all the bad things that could happen.

•Optimists adapt to change.  They are not afraid of altering their routines.  In fact, they relish change.  They see changes in their routines as adventures…not interruptions.  By regularly changing things up a bit, they are less likely to be disturbed by minor annoyances like traffic jams or telephone interruptions.

• Optimists laugh.  They seek out opportunities for laughter in the books they read, the movies they see and the friends they have.  As with daydreaming and smiling, laughter is a good source of feel-good chemicals. (It seems our own brains are our best pharmacy when it comes to anti-depressants.)  Optimists realize they have to put good stuff in to get the good stuff out.  So, they tend to avoid depressing art, literature, news programs and movies and stick with uplifting entertainment.

You can start with an optimistic step by taking your RAW-Q.

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