Advantages of Positive Thinking
There is the classic question on whether the glass is half full or half empty. We could argue endlessly on a philosophical level about which outlook is more useful but let me make a practical argument for the-glass-is-half-full or the use of optimism.
The Christmas season reminds me of the power of optimism and how it can be a catalyst for other principles. (Principles meaning those things that are timeless, obvious and effective. Examples include respect, courage, consideration, service, excellence, etc.) Christmas is about new beginnings and how things can improve in amazing ways.
There are a lot of people hurting now with the sluggish economy. Layoffs continue and many are nervous about tomorrow. One of the necessary ingredients in prevailing over tough times is embracing optimism. This is not about escapism or denial; this about relentless perseverance and confidence that just happens to wear a smile (at least inside).
Optimism alone can fall short but, when used properly, can serve as a great driver. For example, when faced with a difficult problem – like job loss or other financial setback – the pessimist might be tempted to give up too soon. On the other hand, the optimist will actively engage in finding a solution over and over and not be put down by the first few failures. Some might argue optimism is soft but I suggest optimism is tough because it’s most needed when situations are the most difficult.
While upgrading to the F-15 from the F-4, I had some struggles learning how to fight with the new airplane. Because it was more capable than earlier fighters, it was important to maneuver differently to win. This required unlearning earlier lessons and learning new ones. During this time, optimism was one of things that kept me going. Even after failing two flights in a row (a big deal), I was committed to learning and was optimistic I would do so. Optimism was not the main or only ingredient but it was sure important. (I successfully upgraded by the way.)
The opposite holds as well. I worked with a man several years ago who was consistently pessimistic. No matter how I or others tried, there was no humoring his downcast outlook away. As a result, one of the hallmarks of his work was small or incomplete solutions. If you think you can’t or consider yourself unable, you are probably right.
Here are some application thoughts especially as we think about an approaching new year and the potential for greatness in each one of us.
- Hold on to optimism like the treasure it is. Although incomplete by itself, optimism is of incredible value when combined with other principled actions.
- Optimism is a great driver to reach better solutions. When faced with choosing between bad or worse, push back and look for good or great. Optimism helps keep the head clear for fresh possibilities. Don’t settle for “just OK” as this will likely turn into regret or at least disappointment later.
- Optimism is practical. I must admit I have been skeptical at times of those who are overly optimistic. Just trying to “think” away a problem or challenge does not work. I was once lost in the woods and no amount of thinking (by itself) helped me find my way out. However, optimism combined with common sense action saved the day.
- Optimism is a choice. Whether or not you feel naturally prone to optimism, this trait can be cultivated over time and become “natural.” Great people examples come to my mind and you likely have similar role models as well. Choose optimism and you will enjoy a great number of options across the board over time.
The Importance of Trust