In order to help others believe in the possibility or probability of a positive future, you need to believe it yourself. How can you build your optimism, even in the face of great adversity?
Building optimism on a regular basis makes you happier and more content with your life—and makes you a more effective and resilient leader.
Preserving Your Optimism
This exercise is from Martin Seligman’s wonderful work on “Learned Optimism.”
Because it is such a wonderful and simple exercise, I give it to nearly every executive I work with to use on themselves and with their teams. Research suggests that this exercise’s positive effects continue six months after starting it. In order to maintain the positive effects, the exercise needs to be repeated at least weekly.
At the end of each day, write down three things that went well that day. These things can be small in importance (“My computer booted up right away this morning when I turned it on”) or large (“I was offered the job I had interviewed for today”). After each positive event, answer this question, “Why did this good thing happen?” When we visit and revisit the “why,” we begin to see our impact on positive outcomes and to repeat positive behaviors.
Good ThingWhy Did it Happen?
I solved a complex dilemma for a client.I’ve been working hard and focusing.
My shoulder is feeling better.I’ve been following my doctor’s recommendations.
Take a moment and think of three good things that happened today. Attribute that positive to something and see how it changes your perception of your own power to make positive things happen. Repeat daily!
Good Thing Why Did it Happen?
Barbara Frederickson, a distinguished professor and researcher, as well as the author of a popular book, Positivity, conducts research in positive psychology and positive emotions. She coined the “broaden and build” theory of positive emotions. She found that people who experience positive emotions show heightened levels of creativity, inventiveness, and big-picture perceptual focus, and that positive emotions play a role in long-term psychological resilience and flourishing. The tipping-point ratio for positivity is three to one. We need three positive emotions to every one negative to flourish in life, and to be open to possibility.
Fear closes us down and positivity opens us up.
Looking at the four practices of Unfear allows us to tackle fear from all angles, and to broaden and build positivity. We can remind the body how to relax and function at its peak, we can help the mind construct new, more positive beliefs, and we can allow our emotions to be expressed in a healthy way, informing but not dictating our actions.