Monday, June 13, 2011

3 Ways to Add Crucial Insight to your Unstoppable Optimism

"The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty." ~~Winston Churchill

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Optimism is a wonderful trait.  Trusting the best possible outcome to occur is great for the soul.  There are almost always multiple possibilities… the one most likely to happen is the one you visualize, concentrate on, and put the most energy into.  With that in mind, offering your energy up to anything less than the best (“Lowered Expectations,” anyone?) is like investing in 4% bonds when a 12% mutual fund with a proven track record is out there for the taking!

Optimism, however, comes in two forms.  When you weigh all possible outcomes that fall within your area of influence and choose to aim for the best one, that is optimism with insight.  If, on the other hand, you choose to believe that something great will happen 'just because', you are in the realm of blind optimism.  Blind optimism is useless at best, dangerous at worst!

Blind optimism is the flipside of needless worry.  Both involve elements you cannot control.  The worrier visualizes the worst possible outcome and then frets about how to stop it from happening.  The blind optimist, on the other hand, comes up with a wonderful possible outcome and, with no rationale to support it, imagines that they have the power to make it happen.

In the movie "The Karate Kid", Daniel's mother moves them from New York to California.  In the first part of the movie, despite all the troubles her son is having adjusting, she believes that California will fix all their problems.  Lucille Laruso was a blind optimist.

Luke Skywalker (Star Wars) worried about not being able to get off his home planet.  He worried about not getting to be with his friends.  He worried that he didn't understand the force.  He worried that his understanding of the force wasn't strong enough without Yoda there to guide him.  If you've watched the original Star Wars trilogy, you know that this list could go on for days.  Luke Skywalker was a needless worrier.

William Wallace (Braveheart) saw injustice in Scotland and realized that something had to be done.  He analyzed that the weakness of the British crown was in the loss of control over their subjects.  He believed that he could lead his fellow Scotsmen to regain their country.  William Wallace was an optimist with insight.

With that in mind, here are three ways to ensure your optimism is grounded with insight:

1)   Ask the question: “Is there any way I can directly control this outcome?
·      If the answer is YES, then devise a plan to achieve the best possible outcome.
·      If the answer is NO, then keep your hands, words, and thoughts off!  If you are a religious person, this is a good opportunity to pray.  Prayer is relinquishing control and asking God to do what you cannot.
2)   Don’t seek to take on tasks that aren’t in your area of responsibility and authority.  This is dangerous for a number of reasons.
·      It steals work from the person who is supposed to take care of the job and demotivates them.
·      If you get the task done, your ego inflates into thinking you can control anything because, after all, you are working outside the responsibility and authority which have been delegated to you.
3)   Recognize people who get the job done, keep their promises, and have a positive outlook.  These are optimists with insight!  When you regularly spend time with these folks, some of their character is bound to influence yours.

Bonus Tip: STOP TALKING ABOUT THINGS YOU CANNOT CONTROL!!!  The more you bring something up in conversation, the more energy you focus on it.  Whatever "it" is, if it out of your control, you are more likely to default to either needless worrying or blind optimism if you keep bringing it up.  So stop it already!

So how about you?  Are you an optimist?  How do you make sure that your optimism is based firmly in insight?

Painting by John Slaby


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