Optimism. The game changer.

Having a positive outlook can change everything.  If you think you can succeed, finish the race, or complete the project, you will.  If there are a few hiccups along the way, well, that may be what the universe intended.

You probably think that I am being a Pollyanna (for those under 40 and don’t know who Pollyanna is click here) Which is exactly what I’m suggesting you do—be optimistic.  It makes a difference in how you face life; in how you recover from setbacks; in how you lead. In Srinivasan Pillay‘s book Your Brain and Business, he shows why leaders need to be drinking the optimism Kool-Aid.  Dr. Pillay writes, “When you have hope and optimism, you have an automatic way of replacing fear in the line of emotions asking for attention from the amygdala.” Basically, if you dwell on the fear and negativity of the situation, your amygdala goes nuts and shuts down rational and reasonable thoughts.  So if you don’t want to fire up your amygdala (your lizard brain), look on the bright side.  Don’t worry about the “how” and all the obstacles in your way, just have belief that you can succeed and you can lead everyone else (and their lizard brains) out of the fire. See what I mean?  It’s a game changer.

At my Rotary club every week we have a 50/50 raffle.  There is one guy who wins it on a regular basis.  He knows he’s lucky.  He’s optimistic.  He wins. There are times when he doesn’t win, but he wins a lot more often than anyone else.  Certainly more than anyone who thinks they are unlucky.  They aren’t even putting a dollar in.  They don’t think they have a chance.

OK.  So here is how you can drink the optimism Kool Aid:

1. Suspend. As in, suspend your negative thoughts.  Don’t go listing all the ways why this won’t work.  That is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  You will be correct.  There is absolutely no possibility of succeeding if you think you can’t.  You do not pass “Go” and collect $200.  You will be stuck.

2. Pause.  When adversity comes along (and it will), take a breath and disconnect from your present situation.  Unplug and regroup.  Your reaction under pressure is only feeding your lizard brain.  Don’t let the amygdala go nuts and set off all the firecrackers.  Have a Zen moment and disconnect.  The last thing you need to feed when you are under pressure is your lizard brain.  Chill out.

3. Discerning.  Now is the time to pick the thoughts that go reeling through your head.  Something negative comes along like, “This will NEVER work,” or “Here we go again.” Or worst of all, “You dummy…you always fail at this stuff.”  Stay off the merry-go-round of negative thoughts and pick the right time to select your thought.  Is there something good that could possibly happen?  That is the thought you want.  Wait for it.  It’ll show up, especially if you’ve already done #2.

4. Explore.  There must be something good about the current situation.  The sun is out.  It’s finally raining.  It’s finally summer.  It’s finally winter.  There is a bright side to everything.  Just find the right context.  There is a roof over your head.  Your car started this morning.  You finished high school.  You woke up this morning and still have a pulse.  There is good out there—just go do some exploring.

5. Digest.  Dwell and remunerate on those positive thoughts and outcomes.  Make it real and believe in it.  The board will accept the idea.  Your car can be fixed for less than $100.  The next big client is going to call tomorrow.  The sun will come up tomorrow.  Digest the positive and dwell on it.

I’ve said this in other posts but I’m still working on this and many other positive habits. Practice makes perfect.  Start working on your optimist. It doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us and if it does come naturally to you, share the optimism Kool-Aid with others.

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