Today's Economy Demands A Critical Skill: Optimism
By Eileen McDargh
Water shortages. Terrorism. Failing health care system. Wars around
the globe. Gas prices. Severe economic downturn. Look at the
headlines and it's enough to make you stay in bed.
But wait! There is
hope. It's not the cock-eyed optimism sung about in South Pacific,
the hottest show on Broadway. Rather it's what psychologists in
France are calling "intelligent optimism." Such optimism does not
deny the reality of today's world, but rather seeks to learn how to
fashion a life amid such difficulties. Martin Seligman, the
psychologist who had made optimism and happiness his life's work,
would agree with the French: optimism can be taught. Consider these
Focus on what
you can control:
Don't get carried away by circumstances you cannot change. You might
not change global warming, but you can control your energy
consumption. You can't stop the downsizing in your company, but you
can arm yourself with marketable skills. You cannot halt the
bleeding on Wall Street but you can rebalance your portfolio. You
can take a hard look at expenses and determine what are necessities
and what are nice-to-have items that can be dropped. At the same
time, do resolve to spend some money or time on something that truly
gives you pleasure and lightens your spirit. Two-for-one hamburgers
at the local joint with my best friend make my heart glad and brings
a smile to two faces.
event so that you are not a victim:
There is always another way to view a situation. The flight
cancellation that caused me to miss (and forfeit) a major engagement
was not "planned" to "get" me. It just was. My choice is to figure
out what I can do to help the current client and what I will put in
place of the cancelled work. When Hurricane Katrina wiped out the
home of a nurse, she told me that she focused every day on what she
still had and she had her children do the same thing. Every day
started with gratitude. She refused to see herself as a victim.
When we concentrate on what we don't have, we miss all the many
things we do have. The truth of the matter is that if you are
reading this article, you do have enough computer power. You do have
enough intelligence. You do have enough. It might not be as much as
you would like but, for today, it is enough.
Like a farmer tending a field, optimism will never grow unless it is
watered, fed, weeded, and nourished. We all have days in which
negativity can take over. And, sometimes, that is a wise response
because it keeps us grounded in reality. Just make sure it is
reality and not the imagination making extraordinary leaps into
conjecture. Weed out that conjecture. Ask what you can do to see a
result that gives you a sense of power. As Alexander Graham Bells
stated, "Sometimes we stare so long at the closed door we fail to
see the one that is opening." The 3M engineer who thought he had
failed to make a glue compound that would stick discovered what we
all now call Post-In Notes(tm).
power of generations:
Children of depressed parents are more prone to depression. Children
of optimists are more prone to be optimists. What do you choose to
pass along? Even if your parents were negative, you can break the
cycle by stopping, freeze-framing a situation, listening to the
negative self-talk, and then literally giving yourself a different
message. Yes, this is a practice. A hard practice. But you can make
it a habit if you work it over time.
When all else fails, start singing. It is impossible to feel negative
when you lift your voice in song. Music allows you to formulate
words, to add nuance, and to even get your toe tapping.
Refuse to watch
or read anything that puts a dark pall over your day:
Instead of tuning into gloom, read a book that transports
you to another time and a better mood. Go play with the baby next
door. And if you are one of those folks who just can't stand
children, take a walk with your dog, dig in the yard, or get a
bucket of balls and practice your golf swing. Better that than
walking around with heart and mind weighted down.
participate in a chorus of negative conversations if the only thing you will hear is whining, complaining and moaning.
Tell your group that they have three minutes to throw a hissy fit
but then it must stop and the next six minutes must be devoted to
either finding something positive about the situation or something
that they can do.
saying this mantra, "This too shall pass." It always has and it
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