Becoming An Optimist

What is optimism? Who is an optimist? What is an optimistic mindset? These are the questions one can ask oneself when you are feeling down and out.  Arriving at the answers can help pull you out of an impending depression and may help you squarely confront all the things that are not going right. Optimism is defined as the tendency to expect the best possible outcome or to dwell on the most hopeful aspects of a given situation when the chips are down. The feeling of optimism allows one to develop that feeling of confidence to aspire for a better future in the midst of a very difficult current situation. An optimist is one who sees an opportunity in the midst of adversity.  He has that indomitable spirit based on the belief that he can make progress even when confronted with great odds. He can always see the silver lining in the storm clouds of today. This belief makes it possible for him to see a better future and enables him or her to work hard today always for a better tomorrow. All these are possible because the person has an optimistic mindset.

After decades of research on achievement and success, a world-renowned Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck, made some simple discoveries about mindset. Dweck postulates that “in a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.”

She adds that “in a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.”

So having an optimistic mindset can set the stage for a self-fulfilling prophecy of being able to achieve what he sets out to do. On the other end of the spectrum is negativity. If our mindset tells us that we cannot do something, then chances are great that we really will not be able to do so, because we have conditioned ourselves to believe that we cannot. An optimistic mindset will enable us to learn from our mistakes and so refine and improve our subsequent efforts towards success. It will also show us how to look at things from a more positive point of view.  It is like when two people look at the same glass containing some water; the optimist will always see a glass that is half-full while the pessimist will see it as half empty. It is the way a person responds to the challenges that come his way that determines the kind of life he will live. Optimism creates confidence in us, in our ability to overcome the trials and travails of life, given the abundance or scarcity that confronts us.

The optimist is able to discern which things he can control and which things he will have to reckon with. He has the will and the ability to learn from his mistakes and start all over again with the knowledge of what will not work, thus is to be avoided. He becomes a stronger person as a result.  Which are you?  An optimist or not?  The good news is, your mindset can be change, with some practical steps and exercises to change your brain.