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How to Become a Long-Haul Optimist

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‘Optimism. It is not just a mindset, it is a behaviour,’ says Larry Elder.

What is surprising is that optimism is rarely discussed as a skill, but optimism can be erudite. That is because ‘now’ is the time.

Throughout difficult times, there have been repeated and recurring calls for keeping a positive outlook not just in life, but also in business. Optimism and courage are the keys to reshaping the ‘new normal.’ Optimism is demonstrated as an essential element of leadership. This makes businesses harness the power of optimism. 

While there is an inbuilt hope on the horizon for emerging from the pandemic, it is also clear that many ongoing challenges will stay in place for the foreseeable future. Some people rightfully do note that optimism must not become an excuse for neglecting and disregarding the severity of the crisis. 

We have to look at things differently. As tough and harsh as this time is, it is also a tremendous opportunity for many people to build a new skill that will help their lives and careers in profound ways. Now that is long-haul optimism.

Let us begin like this. Once we have solved some of the biggest questions about how we must do this, it will become clear that the building blocks needed to make it happen do not exist. It is all a matter of having a different perspective. The key point is that people have endless opportunities to quit a venture before it becomes a success, but only one path to make it happen – that is endurance and after that perseverance. The world is deprived of all sorts of inventions that do not reach the finish line because entrepreneurs give up a year, a month, or even a week before a spectacular breakthrough.

We are taking on a gargantuan task. The point is to achieve our goals, come what may. It is only then that we are able to stop, breathe, and look back at how we have turned into an optimist along the way. 

Here are the three key steps:

See your challenge as a riddle

We human beings love riddles. Step one is to frame the challenge ahead, not as a question of whether you will arrive at the destination you seek, but rather as a question of how will you reach the destination.

Relate your current goals to childhood dreams

Think back to what big goals you had as a child. What impact did you want to have on the world? See the difficult time as an opportunity to make some of those dreams possible. That is what will get you going.

Find the right partners for ‘collective optimism’

Fill your organisation, your life, and surroundings with people who share your long-haul optimism or, at least, are ready to learn to be optimistic. This does way more than just create and generate a nice feeling in your work culture. It is proven to help breed success. 

‘Collective optimism, which is ideally the shared, positive expectations about future outcomes, is salient to key entrepreneurial outcomes.’ The positive results do show that ‘collective entrepreneurial optimism exhibits a curvilinear relationship with venture creation and growth.’

Please consider that it is easy to get lost in the details of what you are doing. In all relevant cases, the details were literally and specifically microscopic. However, to build on long-haul optimism, you need to focus on the biggest picture possible. You can trust yourself that it does pay off. You will automatically showcase more gratitude when you are more grateful than ever to have a hopeful outlook that is built to last. You will be that attitude that will make you be more present in the moment. That very moment is what will resonate with your long-haul optimism.

I’d like to finish this off with wise words from Oscar Wilde: ‘The basis of optimism is sheer terror.’

Trishna Patnaik is an art therapist and healer. She works with clients on a one-to-one basis in Mumbai.

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