A recent peer review research study appearing in the Journal of Positive Psychology (Schmitt, Gielnik, Zacher and Klemann) suggests that there are real and measureable benefits of being specifically optimistic, that is, targeting your optimism to specific areas of your life, above and beyond being generally optimistic.
OK., so what does that really mean?
My analysis and understanding is this. In essence what the researchers have found is even if we consider ourselves to be optimistic about life in general, when we intentionally target our optimism and positivity toward a specific area of our life we will be more motivated to take intentional action on and therefore more likely to fulfill our optimistic and positive results we aim to achieve.
So rather than just being positive and optimistic about life (which many research studies have validated the benefits of positivity and optimism to living a happy, flourishing and prosperous life), if for example, we mindfully focus our optimism on our work role and our potential to achieve what we set out to achieve, we will be more intentionally engaged in what we do, which will lead to a clarity of intentional promises, which will lead to us taking intentional actions that will lead more likely to intentional results.
OK, so here’s another example of science merely validating what most of us would say just makes plain sense. Self-help, motivational gurus and philosophers for centuries have been suggesting to us ‘what we focus our attention on grows stronger’.
Whether or not we needed scientific studies to validate what seems to just make sense without the validation, the reality is, for some managers, leaders and of course individuals, the more evidence there is to support theories and strategies that will potentially work for them, the more likely it ought to be that more positive action will take place.
I guess in a way that’s why the field of applied positive psychology is such a fast-growing area of study and interest.
As humans, wanting to pursue a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life, sometimes it might just be that latest bit of evidential research that creates the necessary motivation for us to take positive action.
So wherever you see yourself on the pessimistic-optimistic scale, what science is validating for you is when you’re more optimistic and positive about a certain aspect of your work or personal life, regardless of wherever you see yourself on that scale, you’re more likely to become more motivated and engaged in that specific area of attention, and therefore, predictably more likely to achieve the results you seek.
Hmmmm… reminds me a bit of the Thomas The Tank Study (you’ll only get this if you’re a parent or under the age of 25)… Thomas is faced with a steep hill, and as he attempts to take on the hill, he repeatedly says to himself, “I think I can, I think I can”. And voila… he achieves his goal.