Pessimists have it easy. They only need to read the front page of every news website to affirm that the world is doing worse and worse. And they don't think they can do anything about it, either, because they believe their projects are doomed to fail from the start.
Optimists have it much harder, because they need to fend off a constant barrage of bad news. At least, that's how it may seem at first glance. But in reality, optimists have the world for the taking. This article will explain what optimism actually means, why it's so important, and how you can train yourself to be more optimistic.
What Is Optimism?
Optimism means a consistent hopefulness or confidence that the future will be full of good outcomes. An optimist is someone who believes that things will work out for the better, both for themselves and for other people.
Optimism is sometimes confused with toxic positivity, but they are not the same. Toxic positivity means constant positive thinking, regardless of the situation, which is both delusional and destructive. It leads people to suppress negative emotions, such as anger, sadness, or disappointment.
Optimism, on the other hand, acknowledges the difficulties or downsides of any situation. It also encourages people to work through their emotions, good or bad, instead of suppressing them. Here are a few examples of toxic positivity (left side) vs. optimism (right side):
- “Good vibes only” vs. “Come as you are”
- “You'll get over it” vs. “That's hard, but I believe in you”
- “Stop being so negative” vs. “It's okay to feel a little down right now”
An optimist is a realist. They believe that things can be bad in the moment, but they also think they can do something about it. They believe they can build a future where things are genuinely better.
Why Is Optimism Important?
First, as an optimist, you'll be in better physical health. You'll work out more and eat better, which means that you'll live a longer life and be much less at risk of suffering from a cardiovascular disease.
Second, you'll achieve more. This isn't counter-intuitive. After all, the projects you fully commit to are the projects you're most likely to succeed at. But in order to commit to something, you need to believe you can do it. And that means optimistic thinking.
Third, you'll have less stress. Your thoughts will be more hopeful, positive, and confident. Bad events will not weigh on you as heavily and you'll cherish good events for longer. You'll always believe in yourself and in your future.
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, optimism is crucial for the human spirit. The challenges ahead of us are large, and if we're ever to solve them, we need people who believe they can do it, regardless of the odds.
A pessimist wonders if they should do anything at all, considering the world is only getting worse. An optimist wonders how they use their skills to solve problems and leave the world a better place. Who would you rather be?
3 Ways to Be More Optimistic
If you want to be a pessimist, read the news. If you want to be an optimist, look around. One of the ways you can train yourself to be more optimistic is to practice gratitude. The easiest way to do so is by looking around and analyzing what you already have:
- You have a laptop or phone that you can use to earn money online.
- You have access to the Internet and can learn anything for free.
- You have a roof over your head and eat food every day.
These three things weren't a given fifty years ago and they're still not a given today. And they were only examples. Do you have a family that loves you? Do you have a pet that brings you joy? Can you go on a vacation every year? You probably don't need to think hard to come up with a list of things to be grateful for.
Another thing that will make you more optimistic is understanding how you explain the cause of an event. Pessimists believe that they are the sole cause of negative events and that these events are a regular occurrence. But whenever something positive happens in their lives, they attribute it to luck.
Optimists, on the other hand, believe that negative events happen rarely and that they don't reflect on them as people. But they believe that positive events are frequent and, in large part, of their own doing.
How do you look at a positive event? Do you brush it off as luck or do you believe you create your own luck? If the former, try to think the other way round. Think as an optimist would. If it feels a little forced, try to find an explanation that works for you.
For example, if you've been skipped over for a promotion, don't see it as yet another expected failure in your life. Instead, analyze it. Why did this happen? Can you ask your manager for feedback? How can you stop it from happening next time? Don't rest on your laurels; your future is bright.
Much of learned optimism comes down to analyzing your negative thoughts. Pessimists are often stuck in a cycle of self-defeating thoughts that suppress their sense of self-worth. But when you pick a negative thought and analyze why you're thinking that way, you'll quickly realize that most negative thoughts have no grounds in reality.
For example, you might fail at a project and tell yourself you'll never be able to do it. But how many times did you try? Failure is a part of life. What matters is how you frame it. Thomas Edison failed a thousand times before he invented the light bulb, except that he framed it as “I've successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”
Optimists believe in a better future. As a result, they lead longer, healthier, and more successful lives. It's in your bests interests to be an optimist too, and you can learn how to become one:
- Practice gratitude daily.
- Think of positive events as frequent and personal.
- Think of negative events as rare and not indicative of who you are.
- Analyze your negative thoughts and give them a positive edge.