Being optimistic is a mental construct that you choose. And there is a plan that we'll lay out for you in a minute to follow to become optimistic, even in the face of adversity. But it's simple really, you can choose to feel a victim of the events of your life, or you can choose to effect positive life change through the challenges you encounter. Future planning, future mindedness, and an orientation towards the future all fold into the optimistic attitude. And optimism comes easier to people who have a clear idea of what they'll be doing in the future.
Imagine that you have a theory you can articulate that covers the main concepts of how you are going to move from point a to point b in your life. This is a theory only because you really don't know what tomorrow will bring, however, you can suppose that day to day events have less to do with the overall plan than how you deal with those events. That is to say, you may have minor setbacks today, but if you wake up tomorrow and keep on after the major goal, your progress from a to b is intact.
In this theory you could have ideals of the types of things that you think would enable your better life tomorrow, and from these ideas of things, you could create concrete, step by step actions you could take to bring about these things.
Now, imagine the theory as a working plan. An actionable list of activities that you do every day. Now you can see that you are taking theory into reality. And the reality of it is, you don't have to imagine this at all.
This is how you harness optimism. You come up with the concrete plans that will serve you in realizing your ideas. And you work on those plans. This keeps you forward minded, and it keeps you being optimistic. Optimism, and goal setting, will enable you to transcend daily setbacks.
As long as you have breath in your body and blood in your veins then you have what it takes to be optimistic about the future. Being optimistic is all about you keeping your vision on the future while you work today to bring that future to reality.
But optimism doesn't come automatically sometimes. “Sure”, you say, “I can have goals, but when I get knocked down its tough to get back on track. It feels that the world is against me...” But we have a strategy for that too.
This is the plan we were talking about earlier...
Martin Seligman, an optimism evangelist, sternly suggest that in the act of achievement, optimism is strongly called for. And in his most sage advice, learning to argue with yourself is key to disabling negative, pessimistic ideas, and allowing enabling positive, optimistic ideas to flourish. He puts it to us like this: When you feel that the cards are stacked against you, look to these four attributes to combat the naysaying
Evidence: Look for evidence to back up your pessimism, chances are you wont find much. We tend to look at our misfortune as the only misfortune that occurs anywhere on the planet. We, so we feel, are at the worst of it, and that is literally how we feel in the face of adversity. But when you look for the facts, you'll find that 1.) you're not alone and 2.) you're not as worse off as you think. We tend to sensationalize our personal events, both good and bad. Taking a step back and doing a reality check does one thing very well. It keeps it real. So don't be afraid to question yourself, even challenge yourself, if you find you feel negative about anything personal to you.
Alternatives: Okay, maybe there's a shred of truth to why your being pessimistic about some outcome. But does that mean that you are the single, sole cause of the problem? An alternative outlook may show you that there were other factors involved which were out of your control, and these factors may have had just as much influence, maybe more, than anything you did! So make sure you take into account external factors, always! That means that you have to acknowledge that sometimes life does get in the way, but that doesn't mean you have to stop.
Implications: Well, maybe you've found some evidence, and there are some alternatives, but there still seems to be a smoking gun in your hand. Ask yourself this: “What are the implications?” It could be that the exact thing you were attempting, and perhaps failed at, isn't a major catastrophe in your goal's pursuit. In fact, when you stop to think about it, there simply aren't that many things that happen to people in the modern industrialized world that are considered catastrophes in the first place, so chances are, what you've encountered is no where near catastrophic in scope. You may simply need to reevaluate a particular step in your path. Decatastropize the situation, don't make it something its not.
Usefulness: Let's say you've done steps 1, 2 and 3, but still can't get past the pessimism. It happens. So look at it this way. Maybe you really did fall off the wagon, or cause some plan to go awry. Okay. But is it worth it to cling to the idea that you've done it? Chances are, if you continue to hold onto the idea, you'll never be able to work past it. That's an absolute fact if you stop to think about it. If you continually focus on the failure, then you'll do nothing but focus on the failure. It's a self fulfilling prophecy. So what you need to do is acknowledge the fact, and move on. Simply let it go, and get on with rebuilding the path you need follow to achieve your goal. Lick your wounds, take your medicine, but in the end realize this: it is of no use to continually concentrate on any failure you may experience except for to learn from it. Drop it and move on.
Being optimistic is a simple and cheap teacher of many of life's virtues. And when you couple optimism with real, tangible goals, it helps you realize that your opinion and attitude about what you will be doing for the rest of the days of your life are fully in your control. Through choosing to plan, and being optimistic about your tomorrows, you are working in a way that transcends today, and yourself, into the larger idea that is the future of the world.
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