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The Strength of Optimism

optimism

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill

In the last few years, recent events such as the economic downturn, global conflict, war and the outbreak of disease has tested many a self proclaimed optimist’s ability to remain positive and upbeat. In the face of such uncertainty and in some cases serious adversity, remaining optimistic, can sometimes feel impossible, challenging or even insincere.

There are many benefits to having a more optimistic mindset. Research tells us that it can lengthen your life, determine how you overcome life’s obstacles, build resilience and manage the risks of developing depressive disorders and other mental health issues. Recent research also highlights that an optimistic mindset and attitude can spread to others like a positive contagion causing a positive ripple effect to teams, departments, organisations and communities.

In our work, we define the strength of Optimism as being about “remaining positive and upbeat about the future and your ability to influence it to your advantage.” People who have this as a significant strength tend to look first for what is right in people, situations, plans and projects and tend to hold a belief that in the vast majority of cases, things will work out for the best.

Our tool Strengthscope® actually measures the strength of optimism and the extent to whether this is an underlying quality that energises you and whether it is one of your significant 7 strengths.

If you do have this in your top 7, it’s highly likely that it shows up in one or more of these ways:

You don’t let isolated negative events affect your positive view of the world
You expect to do well in challenging situations with a high risk of failure
You look for the positive when things go wrong, rather than focusing on the negative

“Even when I am going through a tough period, I always feel that things will work out somehow. I am typically upbeat and don’t stay down for long… I just look for the learning that I can take out of the situation…there is always an upside and something good that can surface from a negative event..”

“My positivity is infectious and people buy in to what I am saying… I help people see that they can make a difference by looking at what has worked for them in the past. I help them shift their thinking…”

The good news is, that if optimistic thinking does not come naturally to you, it is a style that you can practice and cultivate. Optimism is essentially a muscle that you can build and strengthen by examining new ways of interpreting and thinking about events.

Managing Your Mindset

Think about a challenging or difficult situation you are facing. Instead of travelling down the pathway of negative thinking about the situation, consider how you can reframe it:

What are the advantages associated with the situation?
What are the opportunities presented to you, the team and the organisation by the present situation?
What new beliefs or thinking can you have about your situation?
What positive and productive ideas do you have about overcoming or managing the situation? Which aspects of this are in your control?

If optimism is a natural strength for you, think about how you can use or develop it in new and different ways to strengthen and stretch it so that you and others benefit from its use more widely.

  • Andy Pieroux

    Great article, true to my heart. I heard a lovely phrase last week…”when the storm comes, some build shelter, some build windmills.” – your post reminded me of this.

    • Ruth Robertson

      Andy thank you so much for the feedback- truly touched that it had that impact on you.