Where is Optimism in Your Empowerment Kit?
7 Ideas to Build Optimism, Possibility, and Resilience
Recently, I coached a woman in a leadership role who was dealing with a change in her employment status. It was not a change she wanted. She felt stuck and fearful about what was next. As she began to realize that this shift brought the opportunity to make positive changes in how she lived her life, she envisioned new possibilities and moved forward.
What is optimism and why does it matter?
Optimism is the belief that the future includes positive experiences and outcomes, things can change, and possibilities exist. People who engage in optimism tend to experience greater well-being.
Optimism is a powerful strength in the resilience toolbox. People who are able to cope with life’s challenges, and bounce back to a typical state of functioning are called resilient. Optimistic attitudes and skills can empower self, relationships, work, and communities. Substantial evidence indicates that optimism is good for health and wellness (Harvard Men’s Health Watch (2008); Seligman, 2011).
Optimism comes naturally to some of us. The rest of us can learn to strengthen our optimism-related skills.
Here are a few ideas for adding optimism to your personal and professional empowerment kit:
1. Believing your actions matter and taking action! Letting yourself know that your actions make an important difference in your ability to bounce back from adversity. Starting with the first realistic step toward the change you want to create, and then moving forward.
2. Using mental rehearsal to visualize yourself taking steps to perform effectively and succeed. Visualizing yourself step by step preparing for and engaging in the process of achieving the specific goal. This strategy is used frequently by athletes, and can be used throughout the big game of life.
3. Employing flexibility to consider problems and challenges. We sometimes get stuck thinking in a particular way. Typically, there are multiple ways to approach personal and professional challenges.
4. Asking yourself if succeeding through this challenge is about talent, or if it’s about planning and employing effective strategies. If it’s about the latter, you can learn skills to achieve your goal. For example, solid planning, persisting through difficulties, practicing, learning from mentors and teachers (Halvorson, 2010).
5. Reframing the situation. Changing the way you look at a problem and seeking out the opportunities it offers. Challenging negative statements you make to yourself.
6. Employing creative brainstorming to consider possibilities for approaching solutions. Brainstorming basics include:
A) Defining the problem clearly.
B) Creating an objective.
C) Brainstorming possible solutions.
D) Finding and choosing the most effective or feasible solution.
E) Evaluating the outcome and revisiting the process if needed.
7. Reading a book about the thing you want to achieve, or about someone who has achieved it.
- Adams, S. (March 5, 2013). 4 Steps to Successful Brainstorming. Forbes.com.
- Brooks, R. & Goldstein, S. (2004). The Power of Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence, and Personal Strength in Your Life. McGraw-Hill, NY.
- Fredrickson, B.L. (2009). Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life. Three Rivers Press, NY.
- Halvorson, H.G. (2010). Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals. Plume Books, NY.
- Harvard Men’s Health Watch (May 2008) Optimism and your Health.
- Seligman, M. (April, 2011). The Original Theory: Authentic Happiness. University of Pennsylvania.
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