I learned about demonstrating optimism through this chance encounter.
This is dated more than a decade back when I was living in Mumbai and working with a Human Resources Consulting firm. It had been an exhausting day at work. A major client I had been pursuing was not looking positive about closing the deal. Infact, I heard rumors that he was in advanced talks with a competitor and was all likely to award the contract to them.
After waging an hour long commute, I returned home exhausted and tired.
The door bell rang and it was the person who collected laundry. As I collected the laundered clothes and gave him another set, a vendor came alongside. He was selling biscuits and other savoury sacks that he pedaled in his bag door to door. I told him vehemently, I wanted none and shut the door. In my foul mood, I had slammed the door so hard that it opened again and I had to go to shut it again.
As I went to the door, I heard the biscuit peddler telling the laundry boy, “Don’t worry, she will be my customer next time. Today she is in a bad mood.”
That was a breakthrough moment. I called him back and bought generously. He had shone the light on “Optimism”.
Optimism is a mental attitude. It is a belief or hope that the outcome or outcomes of some specific endeavor, will be positive, favorable, and desirable.
Explanatory Style of Defining Optimism and Pessimism
“Explanatory style” refers to how people explain the events of their lives. There are three facets of how people can explain a situation. This can influence whether they lean toward being optimists or pessimists:
Stable vs. Unstable: Can time change things, or do things stay the same regardless of time?
Firstly, while pessimists believe that any setback is likely to stay forever, optimists realizes the transient nature of the present moment and expresses hope and makes concerted action for a different future. On being rejected at the interview stage, a pessimist will believe he/she is not good, the organisations are biased and they don’t have any hope of landing a job in the current market. The Optimist will recover and look for new ways of connecting, upskilling/reskilling and scout for available opportunities.
Global vs. Local: Is a situation a reflection of just one part of your life, or your life as a whole?
Secondly, pessimists will project failure in one arena of life as impacting all other areas. A scenario of a contract lost means no promotion leading to unhappy me and having an adverse impact on my relationship, a denied promotion and basically the world almost coming to an end. The Optimist will not let disappointment in one arena of life spillover to others and thereby compensating lack in one area by fulfillment in another.
Internal vs. External: Do you feel events are caused by you or by an outside force?
Thirdly, one of the common traits of pessimists is that they blame themselves excessively. “I should have done this”, “Its all my fault” etc. Not confusing with sense of ownership, personalization of blame is when one loads themselves with responsibility of all negative outcomes.
You are not looking at things beyond your control such as Covid impacting global markets. Additionally, this excessive “Blaming of self” drowns pessimists deeper and make it difficult for them to recover.
Realists see things relatively clearly, but most of us aren’t realists. Most of us, to a degree, attribute the events in our lives optimistically or pessimistically.
What this entails?
Understandably, if you’re an optimist, this augers well for your personal and professional growth. Negative events are more likely to roll off of your back. Moreover, positive events affirm your confidence in self, your ability to get results now and in the future, and in the golly of life.
Fortunately for pessimists, these patterns of thinking can be altered and earned. In conclusion, by consciously challenging negative, self-limiting beliefs and replacing it with more optimistic thought patterns, optimism can be cultivated.