If you identify 2011 with terms such as, "global economic downturn, recession, and job-losses", you've perhaps been hit by the squeeze at some personal level? In my daughter's room, a poster hangs on the wall. It says, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On'. The last time this poster enjoyed such popularity was when the British Government produced it in 1939, at the start of the war!
Most of us, I suspect, have kept calm and carried on regardless. However, times of austerity have a way of slowly grinding people down. Even if you aren't directly affected, there's something about the general atmosphere, the constant drip of negative news and the worry that sometimes goes along with potential job loss 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.
How to begin? Well, you must start the process by considering the ways you currently explain the things that 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.
If the analysts are to be believed, 2012 looks like another difficult year. We may not be able to influence too many things in this regard but the way we approach 2012 is partly within our gift.
Published On: January 03, 2012