How to be more optimistic

by | Happiness

The Power of Positivity

Harness the power of positive mind states.

One of the most exciting and important findings in the last decade of psychology is from Dr. Fredrickson’s research at University of North Carolina. She has developed what she calls the “Broaden and Build Theory” of positive emotions. Her research shows that positive emotions don’t just feel good–they are good for us. They broaden our vision and the help us build resources and grow as individuals.

Positive emotions are like the sails on a sailboat. They propel us toward goals. They fuel our efforts toward desired outcomes and help us to get more of what we want. This is very conducive to rising up and over challenges.

How can you step into an upward spiral of positivity?

Believing you can does not happen by “thinking good thoughts,” “having faith,” or other versions of wishful thinking. Optimism is perhaps the most misunderstood concept in positive psychology. It is a state that emerges from a logical assessment of reality. Optimists search for the cracks in the wall of the seemingly impossible. They do not shut their eyes and hope for the best.

Generate Optimism


The Three Components of Optimism:

1. Goal
2. Pathways
3. Self-Confidence

Consider the components of optimism in a currently challenging situation:

1. GOAL: Define your positive target.

Athletes know the power of focusing on the positive target not the negative target. We’ve all experienced this in sports. In tennis it’s “keep your eye on the ball;” when biking, have you ever stared at the rut or a rock so that you don’t hit it, but because that is where your focus is, that is exactly what you hit?

Know where you want to go. This is an obvious but easily overlooked step in creating optimism. Define your target with specificity. Often we have a general sense but do not take the effort to define a goal in specific detail. An abstract goal is difficult to achieve. Furthermore, define your positive target in relation to your Greater Interest.

2. PATHWAYS: Formulate a Logical Plan.
This requires devising doable steps and assessment of likely obstacles. Once you have identified obstacles and put in place measures to avoid or overcome them.

Ask yourself the question: HOW can I?…(rather than the question)…Can I?

The HOW question takes advantage of a powerful principle of cognitive psychology. When we ask our brain HOW to do something, it goes to work on figuring out the resources and procedures needed to answer the question and accomplish the goal.

The CAN I question does not serve us. The answer to “Can I reach my dream?” is unknowable. It is not useful to frame it as a yes or no question. “No I can’t” leads to a dead end; when we ask Can I?, it can get by with a simple response of NO, in order to answer the question and accomplish the goal. “Yes I can” also does not produce action steps. Furthermore, can you really predict with 100% accuracy? The most truthful answer to “Can I?” is “Well, I don’t know.” Any other answer is fortune telling.

Useful questions:
· What has worked for me in similar situations?
· How do others succeed in this?
· Who are good role models?
· How could I learn how this is done?

3. SELF-CONFIDENCE: Cultivate confidence in your capabilities

It is believing that you, yourself, can execute the plan, not just that others can do it, but that you personally can.

Believing that you will reach a goal emerges from having concrete reasons to believe. Realistically assess your ability to take these steps. Consider how you could leverage your strengths and apply lessons from past successes.

Useful questions when building confidence:
· What has worked for me in similar situations?
· Whom could I learn from?
· What resources do I have or could I have?

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