It’s the end of the year. Rampant pressure is mounting. Justifying our existence this year. Qualifying our survival next year. Pressure from above, pressure from below. As unyielding at home as it is at work.
And then the flood of depressing headlines, screaming from every screen. People killing each other intentionally and recklessly. Fiscal cliffs, cancers, divorces, bankruptcies, hurricanes, suicides, layoffs, greed, unfunded pensions, strikes, taxes, poverty, violence, pollution, war, bombings, the economy.
It’s a wonder we get through the day, let alone the year.
What’s the answer? Optimism.
How can we be optimistic in the face of so much horror, violence, cruelty, sorrow, hatred, and despair?
How can we not be? If we don’t perpetuate optimism, hopelessness grows like a cancer.
Hopefulness, confidence, positivity, cheer. Looking forward, not backwards. According to www.dictionary.com, it’s a disposition, a tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.
German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz notably proffered that we live in “the best of all possible worlds.”
French philosopher Descartes, notorious for “I think therefore I am,” expressed optimistic idealization by proselytizing that humans shape and guarantee their own reality. In other words, we are the master of our own universe.
According to neuroscientist Tali Sharot, author of The Optimism Bias, our brains work to transform our predications into reality. As a result, holding optimistic beliefs essentially propel us into unchartered territories, new adventures, and innovative futures.
Why Optimism at Work?
And as a boss, we have an obligation to bolster optimism. (What? Why? That was not in my job description!)
- Optimism is an antidote to gloom.
- Optimism reduces stress and anxiety.
- Optimism fuels the motivation to act and be productive.
- Optimism breeds optimism.
Optimism is what people crave from their leaders.
9 Ways to Promote Optimism
1. Advocate for an Idea First
- Think of every reason an idea might work before criticizing it.
- Tony Tojin, CEO of Cue Ball, a venture capital firm in Boston, invokes the Rule of 24. Before criticizing an idea he waits 24 seconds. If he can do that then he waits 24 minutes. And if he can do that he waits 24 hours. In that time he thinks about how to make that idea actually work.
2. Celebrate Progress
- At the end of every work day, think of 5 things that you/team moved forward.
- Focus on the progress, not perfection.
- Celebrate the discovery not the lack of proficiency.
3. Spot the Small Stuff
- It’s the small acts of kindness, generosity, heroism, and leadership that we need to notice and showcase.
- The ticket agent that went out of her way to assist a stranded passenger.
- The 15,000 utility workers that came from 33 states to work round the clock to re-light NY and NJ in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
- The Bike Rack, a bike store in St. Charles IL that adapts and customizes bikes for individuals with disabilities.
4. Refer to the Resume Rule
- Will this even make the resume? Will anyone care or remember in a month, a year, a lifetime? Is it worth the angst, anguish, and upset? Are we allowing it to destroy something like a friendship, a relationship, our healthy, our energy?
- The resume – that one-page synopsis of our career captures the important roles, not the aggravating office politics and red tape that we get caught up in. Look at your resume and think about all the drama and stress that you endured that is not reflected. Was it worth it?
- Even Hollywood and political scandals get forgotten and people move on.
5. Share the Good News
- My friend Bob Gardner is a Wells Fargo Money Manager and people call him every day complaining about the economy. In response he shares something positive about the economy that is not being reported in the papers. We call him the “positive economist.”
- When curmudgeons complain, share some good news. Then ask them about theirs.
- When asked about his day, my grandfather used to say, “It’s a great day, I woke up this morning.”
6. Heed Children
- They are naturally enthusiastic, buoyant, bright, hopeful, and expectant.
- They believe in Santa Claus against all odds.
- And they believe in themselves against all odds…. until we tell/show them not to.
7. Focus on Your Own Universe
- As the Serenity Prayer states, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
- Pessimism stems from our lack of control.
- Optimism sprouts from what we can control, even if it is merely an illusion of control.
8. Foster Grateful Conversations
- Send thank you notes and specify what you appreciate about the other person and the impact of their efforts.
- Close each meeting with a round-robin, each sharing a positive outcome from the meeting.
- At dinner ask everyone to share something great about their day.
- End each day listing 5 things you’re grateful for – do it while you’re brushing your teeth and it’ll become part of your routine.
9. Hold a Ticket in Your Hand
- My mom always has a ticket to something in the future – a game, a show, a vacation, a dinner date, a party, a holiday.
- Never go into work empty-handed.
- Make sure you always have something to look forward to at work and at home.