Benefits of Being an Optimist

“For myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use to be anything else.”

Winston Churchill

Need for Optimism

In today’s working world, chronic stress is the greatest threat to our wellbeing.  In a report published by The National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health, 75% of workers say they are more stressed than the previous generation, and 40% place themselves on the high end of the stress spectrum.

The antidote to chronic stress is cultivating an optimistic mindset — and it will serve us well throughout our careers.

The proven benefits of being an optimist are:

  • experience better financial health than pessimists,
  • engage in healthier habits with money,
  • more likely to seek out and follow advice from someone they trust,
  • are 40% more likely to get a promotion over the next year,
  • six times more likely to be highly engaged at work, and
  • five times less likely to burnout than pessimists.

As an investment in your professional career, there is none with a better return than that of becoming an optimist.

How to Be an Optimist

Everybody has some level of natural optimism, and the key is to manicure and expand these optimistic tendencies.  Here are my thoughts on how to grow in optimism.

  1. Get some perspective. It is easy to view the actions and attitudes around us in a negative light.  When things go wrong, we feel like a catastrophe has struck, but in reality, you have overcome worse situations and are all the stronger.

The meaning of our circumstances is only what we assign it, and if we think they are bad, they will become bad, but if we think they are not so bad, then they will become okay.  We need to reframe our situations and train our brains to start to see every circumstance in a positive light.

  1. Think creatively. Dream up an unexpected way that the situation you’re in could lead to something good.  Remind yourself that life is unpredictable and that many of the best things in your life would never have happened if things had gone according to plan.
  2. Turn off the news. The news and current state of media and politics can make it very hard for people to be optimistic. The moment you turn on the news or read the paper, you are likely to be barraged with negativity and a bleak outlook on the world.

Remember the news adage, “If it bleeds, it leads.”  The media is not in the business of selling happy stories.

  1. Acknowledge what you can and cannot control. Focus on the people and circumstances on which you have influence but know you cannot force them to go one way or another.  Treat the things you can control as problems to be solved.  If you cannot control it, leave it alone.
  2. Don’t forget to acknowledge the negative. Making an effort to be more optimistic doesn’t mean walking around wearing rose-colored glasses. While it’s good for our mental health to see the positive in situations, not acknowledging the negative can hinder you in the long run.  Optimism can be detrimental if it keeps you locked into fantasy and you are in denial about your current reality.

The Bible

For those of us who follow Jesus Christ, we are commanded to take optimism one step further.  We are not to only be optimistic in our outlook to the world, but to display hope.

Our hope is not the wishful thinking of our current culture.  It is the biblical hope that not only desires something good for the future, but we expect it to happen and are fully confident that it will happen.

Luke 2:10 says.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.

You may recognize this verse as part of the Christmas story.  But consider the times in which it was written about—they were bleak.  Mary and Joseph had to travel for a census, the Romans were persecuting the Jews, and the economy was in the tank.

And yet the angel proclaiming the birth of Jesus was full of optimism and hope, which for the past two thousand years has proven true.

As Winston Churchill also proclaimed, given a choice, why would you choose to be anything other than an optimist?  Invest in your future and the future of those around you.  Start practice being optimistic today.