Today's Economy DEMANDS A Critical Skill: Optimism
March 17 2009 - Global warming. 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
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 basic steps:
(1) 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.
(2) Reframe the 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
(3) Think "enough". 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.
(4) Cultivate optimistic responses. 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).
(5) Remember the 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.
(6) Sing. 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
(7) 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.
(8) Refuse to 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.
Lastly, practice saying this mantra, "This too shall pass." It
always has and it always will.
(c) 2009, McDargh Communications. Publication rights granted to
all venues so long as article and by-line are reprinted intact
and all links are made live.
Known as a powerful presenter and facilitator, Eileen McDargh,
CSP, CPAE has been creating conversations that matter and
connections that count since 1980. Executive Excellence ranks
her among the top 100 thought-leaders in leadership development.
Her newest book, Gifts from the Mountain, received the 2008 Ben
Franklin book award. To hire Eileen to heal your company as a
speaker, coach or retreat leader visit