Want to Be More Optimistic? Here are Seven Ways to Do It
Optimism is absolutely essential for winning, meeting and exceeding goals, and feeling accomplished and fulfilled. It helps us deal with unexpected change, worries and stress, and inevitable disappointments. Optimism is what helps us learn from mistakes rather than feel defeated by them.
But optimism doesn’t just make us feel happier. It also gives us confidence by helping us believe in ourselves and our ability to bring about a solution.
The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals are a case in point. These talented athletes had already mastered the mechanics of pitching, batting, and fielding. Yet the Cards hadn’t won a World Series in 20 years. When I was hired as their first ever Director of Mental Training, I focused on a different type of coaching. They needed to learn how to set goals, focus on their priorities, stay positive, be disciplined, and win. They needed to learn how to cultivate optimism and confidence.
The season I worked with them, the Cards won their first World Series in two decades. I worked with them again in 2011 when they won a second time. This is a testament to the fact that optimism can not only be learned, but that it can yield dramatic positive results.
Want to learn how to be more optimistic and confident? Here are seven ways to do it.
1. Play a 30-second “movie” of your life every day.
Create an imaginary movie reel of your ideal life. Include specific details about how you look, how you feel, where you live, what you’re doing, what you’ve accomplished, and what your life is like. For 30 seconds every day, play this movie in your mind. Set an alert on your phone to remind you. This simple mental training exercise will boost your mood and transform the way you think about yourself, your potential, and your future.
2. Try focusing on the solution, not the problem.
If you find yourself obsessing about a problem, experiencing self-doubt, or feeling negative, focus on the solution instead. Ask yourself, “What’s one thing I could do differently that might make this situation better?” Replacing problem-focused thinking with solution-focused thinking gives you a sense of forward movement, possibility, and hope—the foundations of optimism.
3. Look for any improvement to the current situation.
Get into the habit of looking for any improvement in the current situation as a solution, no matter how small. For example, losing a half pound may seem small when your goal is 50 pounds, but it’s movement in the right direction. Noticing small, positive changes is a basic behavior that helps you practice optimism and positive thinking. It orients you toward success.
4. Find your inner coach.
It’s natural to be more confident and perform better when we have someone cheering us on. Yet a major component of being a successful person is learning to be self-aware and accountable to oneself. One way to reinforce these traits is to conjure up a coach in your mind. Recall a role model who inspired and challenged you. When faced with a daunting task, ask yourself, “What would So-and-So do if she had two reports and only 24 hours to complete them?”
5. Give yourself “done wells” daily.
Take a few moments every day to ask the question, “What have I done well today?” This simple gesture reinforces optimism on a regular basis. Your answers accumulate and eventually help you develop self-confidence, which is extremely important for success.
6. Identify the obstacles to success.
What distractions or obstacles routinely get in the way of meeting your goals? Is it your sleep schedule? Unproductive habits? Negative people or saboteurs? A key to achieving optimism is to make steady progress, and that means limiting distractions. Figure out ways to avoid temptations in your life so you don’t deplete your reserve of discipline before getting priorities done. If you waste time on social media, don’t visit the sites until the end of the day. If you have difficulty saying, “I’m busy” to friends, let their calls go to voicemail. Succeeding rather than failing keeps you optimistic.
7. Nurture your body.
A healthy body helps you generate happy thoughts and emotions. Optimism is easier when you feel good. Factors that interfere with one’s ability to moderate a good mood and positive energy include: lack of sleep, depleted energy from poor eating and lifestyle habits, and too little exercise. If you have a big goal to achieve, “train” for it like a professional athlete. For optimal mental focus and performance, take a holistic approach to physical and mental health—sleep, rest, manage your stress, have a good diet, and get plenty of vigorous exercise.
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Dr. Jason Selk is a mental toughness coach for individuals, businesses, and professional athletes and their coaches. He has two business bestsellers, both published by McGraw-Hill, 10-Minute Toughness and Executive Toughness. He’s a frequent television and radio contributor to ABC, CBS, ESPN, and NBC, blogs for Forbes.com, and has appeared widely in print. Learn more at www.enhancedperformanceinc.com.