How To Build Active Optimism
Optimism is the tendency to take the most positive or hopeful view of matters. It’s the tendency to expect the best outcome, the belief that good will prevail over evil. But the value of optimism is much greater than just the good mood that can accompany a rosy outlook. The optimist always has the capacity to look forward to another day. Not surprising then that optimistic people are more likely to persevere. They are not only more resilient than pessimists but better able to tolerate adversity, more task oriented and committed to success.
Passive optimists hope things will turn out well and believe that they will. But those who merely hope and believe are surrendering control of their circumstances to someone or something else. Active optimists, on the other hand, act in a way that increases the likelihood that things will indeed turn out well.
Navy SEALs seem to share the characteristic of a strong positive mental attitude — an expectation of personal success.For SEALs, the difference between success and failure
is often the difference between life and death. From the SEAL perspective, success doesn’t just happen by chance; it happens because you make it happen. The optimistic expectation of success occurs because of relentless preparation, understanding only too well the meaning of sacrifice, coupled with dogged determination. The SEALs’ success begins with active optimism — a positive attitude and a mandate to change the world.Of course, not all active optimists think in such emphatic terms; but all active optimists do believe they can make a difference.
The most powerful source of active optimism appears to be the experience of success itself. Success begets success. The more successes you have, the better you’ll understand
what it takes to be successful — which will generate more successes — and the more you will tend to expect success. This also sets the stage for the emergence of self-fulfilling prophecy, which promotes active optimism even further.
Victory always starts with a state of mind. It then spreads with such radiance that destiny can do nothing but obey.The self-fulfilling prophecy can be a tremendous competitive advantage. It is the embodiment of the notion that any prediction about a human behavior actually affects the behavior itself. Your state of mind really matters!
If you think you will succeed at something, you are likely to attempt the task with greater effort, enthusiasm and tenacity. You are less willing to accept initial rejection or failure. You are more likely to see those occurrences as exceptions to the rule and simply precursors of your inevitable success. You are more likely to be physically healthier. And your positive beliefs affect your performance.Here are some specific methods, or prescriptions, for achieving active optimism.
1. Harness the Power of Optimism and the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. Your optimism increases with each success you have. You must program yourself to be successful. The mistake that most people make is to choose a challenge that is initially too difficult to manage. There are four ways you can leverage the success-building model in this first prescription:
- Break down large tasks into smaller and more manageable parts.
- When a task is too big for you to manage, ask for assistance.
- Rehearse your responses.
- Visualize success.
2. Build Active Optimism Vicariously. The best way to build active optimism is by first having success and then applying a self-fulfilling prophecy based on that success. But there’s another road to achieving active optimism in the absence of your own success: Watch others be successful at what you want to achieve. The key is that you must perceive those you observe as either being somehow similar to you or possessing a key to success that you are realistically capable of acquiring.
3. Build Active Optimism Through the Encouragement and Support of Others. Evidence suggests that interpersonal connectedness and support are powerful determinants of resilience. In the military, unit cohesion is critical. In the social and business worlds, sometimes it really is whom you know that counts, and the strength of the bonds of affinity.
4. Build Active Optimism Through Self-Control. The ability to control oneself becomes a powerful determinant of subsequent behavior. When you can control your actions, thoughts and even bodily reactions, it conveys self-confidence and active optimism. Your ability to delay impulsive actions will prevent overreacting. Learning how to control both self-defeating thoughts and over-arousal can be powerful sources of active optimism.