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How to Be More Optimalist?

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The year 2020 was largely marked by the COVID-19 health crisis and its repercussions on our professional and personal lives. This ‘annus horribilis’ makes us want to quickly move on and move forward in 2021. Guila Clara Kessous, an actress by training, a researcher in positive psychology, a corporate coach certified by Harvard University and a UNESCO artist for peace, accompanies us on this path explaining what is the notion of optimalism.

For sure, 2020 will not be in your top 10 best years – Health crisis and quarantine have affected daily life and shaken our habits and perceptions. A difficult year both professionally and personally, which makes us want to quickly turn the page. ‘We should not overshadow this year too quickly nor think about the “world after”, but rather the “world to follow”,’ according to Guila Clara Kessous, PhD and certified corporate coach. A nuance that highlights the importance of analysing this period in order to learn from it. For her, we need in 2021 to be more optimalistic.

Setting up our emotional balance sheet

‘We need to be prepared in 2021 to be more optimalistic,’ as Dr Tal Ben Shahar, famous Harvard University Professor of Happiness is says. ‘A combination of optimism and realism; optimism is the only way to see things clearly while accepting reality and not deny it. For example, we can report on the difficulties we encountered (weaknesses, suffering, unpleasant emotions, etc.) in order to build on to them and go further,’ encourages the coach. Getting to know how to recognize them and slowly how to get through them. This is the principle of resilience. 

This work can be completed by practising the positive reevaluation recommended by psychologist Rebecca Shankland: for each difficult experience, we ask ourselves what we have learned; what elements we can be grateful for; what skills we have developed; how these trials have brought us closer to the life we desire.

‘You have to understand the meaning of this suffering in order to know what you can bring to the world. It’s not a question of taking stock of a performance, but rather an emotional assessment,’ says Guila Clara Kessous.  

Accepting change

Next, the expert proposes to situate yourself in relationship to the change curve of psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross who describes the phases of resistance to change. First, there is shock, denial, anger, fear, sadness. These negative phrases dwell on the past and are counterproductive. Then the curve goes up again with a phase of acceptance, forgiveness, search for meaning to achieve serenity and growth. These constructive steps help to move forward. The emotional balance sheet, therefore, helps us to see where we are on this curve.

Then, you can look at one’s Ikigai, one’s sense of purpose, based on four questions: what do I like to do? What am I good at? What am I getting paid for? What does the mode need? This allows one to start from one’s deepest aspirations to feel good and evolve in 2021 by being aligned with one’s values. 

Adapting in the face of uncertainty

But the events of 2021 will not disappear with the new year. In order to face the uncertainties of this world, Guila Clara Kessous advocates the use of VUCA tools, used by the American military when they left for the battlefield without knowing what was waiting for them. VUCA is an acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. To address each of these, we have tools.

Against volatility, the fickle nature of things, we have the Vision. It allows us to find a solution in what we can perceive of our environment, to see in it opportunities for personal and professional development. ‘If I’ve been laid off, the Vision can make me realize that it’s bad for a good because I might be able to work closer to home, for example,’ explains the coach.

The second tool is Understanding. It’s about slowing down, finding inner calm, to strengthen oneself in the face of anxiety-provoking media attacks. 

The third is Clarity to find reliable sources. “We can ask questions to an acquaintance who works at the hospital or a relative who has had the covid to get an opinion on what is happening around us. Generally speaking, you have to go through the local, that’s what will save the global,” adds the expert. 

Finally, the last VUCA tool is Agility. ‘It allows us to accept to be in the transformation, that our convictions of yesterday can be changed without it being a drama,’ says Guila Clara Kessous.

Getting motivated for 2021

Once you have done this personal work, you have to start climbing the Kübler-Ross curve, feel alive and want to be useful. But it is essential that this motivation emanates from you in order to succeed. 

Furthermore, in order to endure the uncertainties that will arise again, you must be able to draw on your resources. Hence the importance of preserving your energy thanks to a healthy lifestyle (regular schedules, healthy and balanced diet, physical activity, restful sleep, etc.), by avoiding going constantly after others and by indulging in your ‘flow’.

It is an activity that you enjoy doing for hours on end and that allows you to recharge your batteries. This flow can become a refuge and even be transposed into the professional sphere. ‘If you like to read, at the next video conference, you can discuss a quote or book with your team. Video meetings become less painful, less formal and more human,’ adds the specialist.

Finally, according to her, you have to realize that there are many of us going through the same thing. ‘Covid is egalitarian. We have the same risk as Bill Gates or Michelle Obama of getting sick. Being together is our greatest strength. We must not be afraid because life is short and there are a thousand and one ways to appreciate it. It is our responsibility,’ concludes Guila-Clara Kessous.

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