How optimistic do you think you are when it comes to your life turning out the way you hope it will? If you look back, say 10 years ago, and think about where you are today in your personal and business life, how close are you living your life in ways you expected?
What are some areas of your personal or business life that the you of 10 years ago hadn’t even considered?
None of us knows what is going to happen in the future. Sure we can plan for it, and we can take intentional actions that give us the best chance possible to achieving it, which if you want to live a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life, doesn’t it just make good sense to at least define what you want in life and then have a good crack at getting it?
The real key here is that everyone of us, in one way or another, will have many disappointing experiences throughout our lives. Some of these disappointing experiences could have been through our own fault (poor choices, poor or unskilled actions), and some through absolutely no fault of our own… however, some negative stuff just happens.
Here’s what we know from the science though. There are far too many research findings over far too many years that point toward the benefits of an optimistic outlook. Optimists live longer, are in better health, report higher levels of happiness, make better financial and lifestyle plans and tend to be more successful across all fields.
Here’s what a lot of people don’t know however. Most of us are optimists. On average, for the majority of people, our expectations exceed future outcomes…and the reason is evolutionary. Our brains are wired in such a way to over-predict our future happiness and success, because as one of our natural drives is as an aspirational goal seeking being, if we didn’t believe in the possibility of a bright future, we’d just give up.
While research supports the many benefits of being more optimistic, science also validates that pessimism has one clear advantage – and that is in having a keener sense of reality. The big problem for pessimists however, is in the restrictive and often detrimental way they deal with their unwanted and negative realities when they do eventuate.
Even optimists have ‘dark days’. So the question is, can we learn to be intentionally and practically (balanced) optimistic, without taking it too far and become an ‘extreme optimist’ (which just like doing exercise or drinking alcohol… too much can be dangerous in a number of ways)?
The optimistic and practical answer is yes!
And you’ll be pleased to know that it’s not just about ‘positive thinking’ and affirmations.
One of the most effective tools that will help you to learn how to be more optimistic in tough situations and to reframe your future perspective (to reduce stress, anxiety and start to engage in the many validated benefits of being more optimistic) is Cognitive Therapy… or put into more general language, a systems approach to analysing how you think about certain situations.
This is not positive thinking… it’s analysing how you think and questioning whether your thinking patterns need to remain the same, and whether they are promoting you toward flourishing in life or restricting you from flourishing in life.
Without trying to ‘teach’ you Cognitive Therapy, in essence it’s about getting to know how you think, feel and act in certain negative situations, and then clearly analysing the evidence, alternatives, implications and usefulness of those thoughts, feelings and actions.
The key to this process is the more you can analyse clearly how you’ve thought, felt and reacted to past events, the more you’ll be prepared to adopt new thoughts, feelings and actions in the future and about the future… you learn to be more optimistic.
As I’ve just pointed out, my intention in this post is not to teach you how to apply these steps in your life, but rather to point out that you can learn to be more optimistic about life and experience the benefits that science shows can be derived from an optimistic outlook on life.
Now, it’s easy to read these steps, but if you find you are approaching life more pessimistically than optimistically (practically optimistic and not overbearingly extremely optimistic), I recommend you seek some personal coaching from a professional who is qualified to help you apply Cognitive Therapy.