No matter what your goals are, they are your next step. Your goals are a step ahead of where you are right now, that’s why they are goals! In order to achieve things you haven’t achieved before, you’re going to be faced with some tough stuff. You need to be ready to create optimism.
True optimism isn’t about seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses and ignoring the hard facts. Optimism is about acknowledging the facts and seeing the resources you have to achieve the results you need, no matter what the circumstances.
There are many reasons to be optimistic, no matter what situation we find ourselves in. Optimism is usually connected with scenarios where we feel we are unlikely to achieve our desired result. The unlikeliness of success leads to higher levels of stress. When optimism is present in tough situations, we are able to function with slightly lower stress-levels often landing us in the optimal stress-level bracket for best performance. Operating above our resting stress-levels and below our panic stress-levels frequently results in more successful outcome than expected. That’s a good reason to be optimistic. If you’re not, you’ll reach panic stress levels, or shut-down and ultimately play out the bad situation to a bad end.
Optimism and a belief that success is possible, in the most unlikely situation, drives actions that will make success more likely. When optimism is lacking, we do not see the benefit of investing in the behaviours of success. As Henry Ford stated: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right”.
When you are chasing goals, and looking to do things you’ve never done before you need optimism.
So HOW do you create optimism?
Interestingly, our abilities to imagine future scenarios is highly dependent on the part of our brain responsible for memory, the hippocampus. And our memories, specifically the details of our memories, can be fairly flexible with respect to what we store. This is a great set-up and allows for some clear framework on HOW to be optimistic.
- Inventory your current situation and the result you need. Compile as much detail as you can.
- Think of the key actions that you, or others would need to take in order to achieve the goal.
- Play out the events that would need to take place between the current situation and the winning result.
- Now, go back into your memories and look at some of the individual events and actions you need to take NOW. Find the episodes in your memory where you have done individual actions you need to reach now.
- Once you have inventoried individual actions and events that you have already succeeded with in the past, you will have increased confidence and self-efficacy that you will be able to repeat these events in your current situation.
- Go back into your memory again and look for times when others have completed the actions that you need them to do now. See if you can link their behaviour to any actions you took to drive their behaviour.
- With a renewed trust that you can influence others and that you have witnessed the people you depend on taking the right actions in the past, your belief in your support system will be elevated.
- Take a moment to prioritize the actions you need to take right away to take charge of the situation and the actions you need to take to influence others. Plan these into your schedule to express your new-found optimism.
Choosing optimism is a matter of realizing that you have already faced similar situations, successfully executed many of the needed actions and that you have depended on others in the past and they have risen to meet the needs of the situation. Once you build your future with the positive events of your past, you will already be a step closer to achieving the seemingly impossible.
Like any life skill, creating optimism takes practice. Start small with your BestYourself goals. When you set goals, you are expecting to push yourself beyond what you’ve achieved before. However, your goals are set based on knowing that you have already achieved portions of the new task, albeit at a lesser aptitude. Practicing your 8 steps of creating optimism every time you approach a new goal will build strength in this skill and prepare you for the toughest situations where you need BIG optimism.
Brain science cited: T.Sharot The Science of Optimism: Why We’re Hard-Wired for Hope. TED books