People are afraid of optimism. They know the value of it, but don’t want to get their hopes up too much, just in case things don’t work out. Expecting the worst makes it a nice surprise if you succeeded, and if it doesn’t it wouldn’t be a disappointment, right?
Strangely enough, we feel like we somehow have more control if we expect the worst. Yet, according to Martin Seligman in his book, Learned Optimism, it is the optimist who has the most power, while the pessimist feels helpless.
He says that the optimist sees disappointments, or negatives as controllable and changing. Whereas the pessimist can be paralyzed because he thinks the setbacks are permanent and dire.
Yet we can see its inordinate value by taking a look and a lesson from young children.
•Watch as they try new things expectantly.
•Observe their creativity.
•Think of how we, ourselves would have learned to walk, talk, or anything, really with a pessimistic attitude.
•Think of how much work they get done, by being optimistic.
Optimism also makes working so much more bearable. No one likes working with a grouch. We don’t get much done if someone throws a damper on everything we do, yet our creativity abounds when co-workers are encouraging, and positive.
•It reduces the level of stress experienced.
•It increases your level of productivity.
•It makes you proactive.
•It increases the likelihood of effective problem solving.
Think of how your workplace would thrive with a little optimism. Be the change. Introduce optimism to your group.
For some great optimism exercises check out Lemonade: The Leaders Guide to Resilience at Work - available at The Resilience Project.