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How to become an optimist in challenging times

Updated on March 16, 2016

Be optimistic and focused like a lion

I wish I were told that life is easy and there are no obstacles. As I was growing up; I was exposed to a negative environment that polluted my thinking patterns. I was told that I will never amount to anything and did not know how to cope with daily challenges of life. When I have an idea about starting something, I would immediately have a negative outcome and convince myself it will never work. I know you get what I am saying.

When we think negative all the times; our actions will also be negative towards life in general and we won’t attempt to pursue our desires or dreams. In a nutshell, you become a pessimist, pessimists always expect a more bleak future and vigilantly wait for the inevitable bad things to happen.

Winston Churchill once said – A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity while an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Thinking negatively destroys our belief system and self-esteem because you don’t commit in everything do you and you lack persistence, when the going gets tough; you easily quit. Whatever that you start, you don’t finish it. The reason being you always look at the dark side of life. Most people don’t realise their dreams or life goals because of being a pessimist.

Changing from being a pessimist to being an optimist requires one to transform his/her thinking patterns to positive. The optimists have an ability to look at brighter side of life and to maintain positive attitude even in the face of adversity. They have positive approach towards life. The optimists know that everything happens for the best, or wishes will ultimately be fulfilled.

The pessimists always make the following statements:

  • I made a mess of this relationship. (internal attribution)
  • I don’t to have what it takes to have good relationships. (stable attribution)
  • I am a failure in all relationships. (global attribution)

Statements made by optimists are as follows

  • We live too far apart to have enough time together to build a relationship. (external attribution)
  • I have had good relationship in the past. (variable attribution)
  • I am going to do better in my next relationship. (specific attribution)

The benefits derived from enhanced optimism

  • Optimists persevere in their effort to tackle serious adversity, while pessimists use escapism techniques such as focusing on temporary distractions and wishing the adversity away.
  • Optimists also seem to re-frame positively adverse situations that cannot be changed, and accept reality more readily.
  • They make less use of denial or attempts to distance themselves from the problem.
  • They tend to accept reality as is, attempting to find the best in negative circumstances and to learn from experience.
  • Optimists use more problem-centered coping mechanisms and are future oriented than the pessimists.

Dangers of being a pessimist

  • Pessimists exhibit “giving up” behaviour and tend to avoid focusing on the problem by, for example indulging in excessive drug or alcohol use, actively dimming awareness of failure and problems.
  • They have self-defeating behaviour and less persistence, avoidance coping such as excessive sleeping, and in more extreme cases, may even include an impulse to escape from life via suicide.

Where does pessimism emanate from?

  • Children raised by pessimistic parents also adopt the same behaviour of their parents.
  • Exposure to too much violence, such as excessive TV watching, can, for example, also induce learned helplessness and resultant pessimism.
  • Childhood trauma such as parental death, abuse, incest may contribute to the development of pessimism.
  • Infants experiencing the world as unpredictable tend to develop a basic mistrust in others.

Researchers found that people who learned optimism predicts:

  • Healthier relations
  • Better mental and physical health and longevity
  • Better academic or work performance
  • Superior athletic performance
  • More productive work records
  • Greater satisfaction at interpersonal level
  • More effective coping with life stressors
  • Less vulnerability to depression
  • Superior physical health

Whatever negative things you were told before, now; it is up to you to believe them or not. And whatever situation you find yourself in, you have to see the positive side and develop a new belief system about who you really are. Because you are wonderfully and fearfully made, God knew you before you were formed in your mother’s womb. Start right now about who you want to become and write your vision down as clearly as possible so that anyone reading it may run with it. Subsequent to that, write down your dreams and goals; and show commitment towards your goals. One major problem that will stop you from achieving your goals is the habit of quitting. You have to destroy this habit at all costs if you really want to be successful in life.

Whatever adversity you come across, tell yourself that there is way out, you may change the route but not the decision to achieving your original goals. Develop persistence and resilience. The Last thing that you need to develop is a focused mind like that of a lion, I remember one particular morning when I was jogging and I took a look of where I was going and got discouraged then I decided to focus on where I am by taking those minor steps consistently until I reach my destination. What I am revealing to you is that don’t focus too much on the end result because you will feel like the road is too long, rather focus on the minor steps that you take every day and eventually you will reach your destination. Take note that people prefer to follow an optimist rather than a pessimist.

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