A new year is upon us. Do you find yourself, as many people do, pausing at this time to reflect on the past year, where you are and where you want to be? Do you set New Year’s resolutions with the hope of changing the course of the year before you, only to find yourself floundering or failing to maintain your resolutions by the end of the month? This cycle is common for many people. So, what does it take to make real and lasting changes in our lives? What does it take to feel happier and more fulfilled? How do you turn good intentions into habits that will make the changes stick? Wishing you the best for 2018!
This is part 3 in the 3-part series on The Choice of Happiness by Diana Gabriel, Certified Strengths Strategy Coach.You must regularly engage in practice and persistence to develop optimistic thought habits. Click To Tweet
Cultivating optimism shares similarities with expressing gratitude. Both exercises require you to intentionally focus on the positive aspects of any given situation. Optimistic people celebrate the past and present, while also anticipating a fulfilling future.
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity;
an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
We all may define optimism a bit differently. You may be optimistic in one context, yet pessimistic in another. Some researchers define optimism as a global expectation of a positive future.
Other experts describe optimism as the way we explain outcomes. When faced with a negative event, a pessimist will view it as internal, permanent and universal. They’ll think: “This always happens to me; it’s my fault.” In contrast, an optimist attributes the event to something external, transient and specific. They think: “This isn’t my fault; it’s a temporary glitch.”
Your Best Possible Self
Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky offers the following exercise, called “Your Best Possible Selves,” in The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want (Penguin Books, 2007): For 20 minutes, write a narrative description of your best possible future self in multiple life domains.
Channeling your thoughts in this direction will boost your mood and motivation. Highly structured, systematic and rule-bound, the exercise prompts you to organize, integrate and analyze your thoughts in ways that fantasizing doesn’t allow. Writing about your dreams provides clarity and a renewed sense of hope and control.
You must regularly engage in this activity to develop optimistic thought habits. As with sports and career mastery, optimism requires practice and persistence.
Being optimistic can involve a choice about how you see the world. It doesn’t mean denying the negative, avoiding unfavorable information or being a Pollyanna. Pragmatic optimists are just as likely to be vigilant about risks and threats while seeing the glass as half full.
They’re also keenly aware that positive outcomes depend on the wholeheartedness of their efforts. They don’t wait around for good things to happen.
If you are struggling with dissatisfaction, pessimism or an inability to feel grateful, consider working with a professional coach. In the work I do with clients, I’ve seen how building new habits can open the doors to your happiness and success. You owe it to yourself. You’re worth it!