Have you noticed the number of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ objects for sale? It’s on posters, t-shirts, mugs and mats. The last time this phrase enjoyed such popularity was when the British Government produced it in 1939 at the start of World War II.
Most of us, I suspect, have kept calm and carried on regardless of the fact it’s Brexit, it’s another election, North Korea is in the news and so on. However, times of negativity and austerity have a way of grinding away at people. Even if you aren’t directly affected, there’s something about the general atmosphere, the constant drip of dire news and the worry that comes with it that affects people.
If you were to pick a word that summarizes this atmosphere then pessimism might do the job nicely. However, it’s optimism that marks out the more resilient amongst us and this becomes something of a prized asset during the low points in life.
If you’re a natural pessimist – someone prone to seeing the bleaker side of life – you might be wondering where you stand? You won’t be alone, that’s for sure, but there are ways you can learn to unleash the optimist within you. Get this right and you’ll find you have greater energy, perseverance, confidence and resilience against possible setbacks.
Starting Your Resilience Regime
How to begin? Well, you must start the process by considering the ways you currently explain the things that currently happen in your life. If you’re a pessimist you probably aren’t surprised when setbacks occur. You see them as inevitable, typical, and a symptom of the way things nearly always have a way of going wrong in your life – “what’s the point?” What’s happening is that you have developed a mental set in which negative events are first predicted then found. It quickly becomes a self-fulfilling and easy-to-maintain pattern that lacks any real perspective. If this is you, or something like you, then you can begin to change things.
Having recognized these tendencies the next step is to challenge them. So, something goes wrong and you feel upset. Let’s examine the facts. If something goes wrong the chances are that a number of things have contributed to it. Thinking about these issues can help to put things into perspective and often removes you from the center of blame or responsibility. Even if you are at fault, bad things happen to people and that’s just a fact of life. Learning isn’t always a comfortable process, but we can turn upsets and failures to our advantage if we view them as learning experiences rather than indicators of personal failure.
Optimists are sometimes criticized for looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses. However, this same mechanism appears to provide the optimist with greater resilience against stress. Optimists tend to have any number of plans up their sleeve, even if they haven’t thought of them yet. In this way a problem is simply something to be solved, not a reason to down-tools.
Is there such a thing as being over-optimistic? Yes, of course. In the way that being over-pessimistic can lead to inertia, there are times when constant striving can lead to unrealistic expectations as to what may be achieved. On balance however, the person with a problem-solving outlook on life tends to hold the upper hand when it comes to bouncing back.
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