Chances are high that you belong to the vast majority of people that have started this wonderful year of 2023 with great intentions (yes, I see you… even you, the one that claims that new year's resolutions are not your 'thing' but secretly have them anyway) - but fell off the bandwagon already. Which is not ideal, but at least we are in good company, right? So what do we do about that?
Mind you, this is not a post on habits, routines or any of that juicy organisational or productivity stuff that you might expect when hearing about getting back on track. We are talking about optimism today. You might think that optimism has nothing to do with your intentions for this year, that optimism alone doesn't help you find that dream job, make that career switch, be kinder to yourself, or do more sports more regularly. Which is true. No arguing from this side. But optimism has a superpower. One that might just give you that extra push you need to actually get up and pursue your goals and dreams despite all the difficulties.
A lot of people might suggest that this superpower is a positive outlook in life. They would say, it is the feeling of hope that is sparked and thus drives your mindset and mental state. And even though we know that all those things, including positive self-talk, are really valuable for your motivation and innate drive to accomplish your goals, they can also have a downside: they can trigger fatigue when things do not go as smoothly as planned, and so they can actually be counterproductive.
So what is it about optimism that is worth calling it a superpower? Well, optimism is linked to a strong sense of self-efficacy. Self-what? - You might ask yourself… Self-efficacy is "a person's belief that they can be successful when carrying out a particular task", according to the Cambridge dictionary. And what does that mean for optimists? That means that having an optimistic attitude will let you invoke healthier behaviours because you think it can make a difference in the outcome. In simple terms this means that optimism makes you active. It lets you do things. It lets you go out there. Move, Engage. It makes you more persistent when things don't go according to plan. Not because of your optimistic mindset, but because of your tendency to act and to solve any issues that are coming your way. Because as a true optimist, you have self-efficacy. You believe in the fact that you can be successful when you go and just try.
But where does that leave us in terms of our new year's resolutions and goals for 2023? It leaves us at a place where we all want to be that little more optimistic. But is that even possible? The answer is yes. Which is great. Optimism is a trait that indeed might not change much over time, but there definitely is some wiggle room. There is a way to be more optimistic. How, you might ask? Here are our top 5 suggestions:
Start questioning your pessimistic thoughts
It is very easy to get caught up in the downward spiral of negative thinking. During that time, you might even consider your thoughts purely realistic. The important thing to remember is however, that thoughts are not facts. They are not set in stone. And they definitely do not tell you the truth all of the time. So what about starting a little experiment? Whenever you find yourself in that negative (or 'realistic' as you might say) spiral of pessimism, hold still for a moment and first of all acknowledge that these thoughts are there. Question the truth of your thoughts and have a little argument with yourself. You might even start to replace these negative thoughts with more positive ones and train your brain to think differently. Mind you, this will not happen with just one or two tries, but consistency is key and your future, more optimistic self will thank you.
Surround yourself with optimistic people
It can be very hard to break through that wall of negative thinking and get into the mindset of positive thinking. Being surrounded by optimistic people that not just give the positive role model but might even encourage you to develop and train that optimistic muscle can be super helpful. Observing them closely can give you new motivation to continue with your experiment and you might even learn the one or the other trick to make the switch more smooth and easy.
Start a gratitude practice
Gratitude and optimism are very much linked and practising to be more grateful can help in becoming more optimistic. Now, practising gratitude can be as simple as thinking about two things you are looking forward to during the day every morning you wake up. And making it really easygoing, you might even include the sunshine and your great coworkers you get to spend part of your day with, if you want. Of course, you can always expand on that gratitude practice and grab your pen and notebook to include it in your journaling practice. Anything in-between is of course possible and great as well. In case you need additional information on having any kind of gratitude practice, you can download our Intentional Journaling Guide and get inspired:
get your free copy of our Intentional Journaling Guide
Be mindful of your social media consumption
We all know it but we all tend to ignore it: social media can put you on a negative trajectory. You are confronted with mainstream news which catastrophizes each and every item, you see everybody apparently having a wonderful and effortless life, and you ignore the fact that most people have filters on their pictures and wonder why your skin isn't as flawless as theirs. We have all been there. And we've got you. It might hurt a bit and give you feelings of FOMO, but we would still recommend thoroughly cleaning the list of social media accounts you follow. Get rid of everyone that invokes a negative feeling and negative thoughts and enrich your list with accounts that truly inspire and motivate you. Accounts that are worth your time. Your mental health will benefit tremendously and your levels of optimism might get boosted as well.
Just do it
We often have the tendency to overthink. We first want to understand and explore all the details and have the full plan laid out perfectly. Then we want to double check and recheck and want to have an expert look over it as well. By the time we feel secure about our intent, it is already too late and you never actually get into action mode. A more optimistic alternative would be to just do it. Can you say that again? - I hear you whisper. Yes, just do it. That does not mean to be reckless and do stupid thoughtless things. It means to stop worrying too much and start inviting the idea that maybe, just maybe, things might turn out alright. That's what an optimist would do.
At the end of the day however, please remember to not be so hard on yourself. You have lived with those negative thoughts and your rather pessimistic or realistic outlook in life for a long time. This mindset is not changed overnight. It is a process and you will set two steps forward and will set one step back. That is okay. We all do. Tomorrow will be a new day with new opportunities to practise being more optimistic, how great is that?! Your new year's resolutions will be there waiting to be picked up and you can give them another go whenever you feel ready.