Overly optimistic people can be annoying. These shiny happy people seem out of place in a world that is definitely not all unicorns and rainbows.
On the other hand, without optimism, how would we even keep going? Why would we seek to improve ourselves? The key is to be rationally optimistic:
Rational optimism means taking a realistic assessment of the present moment. It means maintaining the belief that you can put one foot in front of the other, take action, and overcome a challenge or reach a goal.
It’s no surprise that rational optimists tend to meet more of their personal and professional goals. But does this success lead to satisfaction?
The experience of success
Michelle Gielan is a positive psychology researcher and the author of Broadcasting Happiness: The Science Of Igniting And Sustaining Positive Change. Her work suggests that optimism and financial well-being are closely linked:
We surveyed 2,000 adults nationwide and found that optimists are seven times more likely to experience high levels of financial well-being. They feel better about their money, no matter how much they make or have, and they’re significantly more likely to make positive choices about it.
Well, that’s reason for optimism. But what if you’re not exactly Panglossian in temperament?
Optimism can be learned
Things are looking up on this front as well — Gielan’s research reveals you can learn to become more optimistic. Here are some simple things to try:
- Take a ‘now’ step: Don’t wait until you have a perfect plan with everything figured out. Start now with a meaningful first step, and celebrate your incremental progress. This gets your brain into “win” mode, which provides encouragement to keep going when things get tougher.
- Focus on the good: Our minds tend to focus on the negative, which leads to stress about our slow progress. Each day, take two minutes to write down three new, specific things you’re grateful for. This switches your mental frame from negative to positive.
- Expect the unexpected: You’re going to make mistakes and experience setbacks, so let’s just get good with that now. When you accept this reality, your resilience grows each time you recover. Then setbacks actually fuel your optimism — because you know you’ll get past them.
Realistic optimism isn’t about demonstrating your sunny disposition. It’s about taking action in the face of adversity, and continually coming out on top.