Leading With Optimism

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Leading With Optimism

While being skeptical can be a healthy way to avoid getting taken advantage of, being pessimistic – that is, always assuming the worst – can have major negative consequences on your life. Seeing only the negative aspects of any situation can cause you to miss opportunities, neglect problems that need to be solved, and fail to take action that would otherwise improve your relationships and quality of life. Optimists look for the light at the end of the tunnel. If you’ve always had a pessimistic worldview, it can be difficult to shift your focus, but it is possible to start seeing the glass as half full, not half empty.

Use positive affirmations. Write down short statements that remind you of what you’re trying to change about the way you see the world. Put them in places where you’ll see them every day, such as on your bathroom mirror, the inside of your locker, on your computer monitor, and even taped to your shower wall. Some affirmations to start with are:

  • “Anything is possible.”

  • “My circumstances do not create me, I create my circumstances.”

  • “The only thing I can control is my attitude towards life.”

  • “I always have a choice.”

  • “I choose to live my positive side of life.”

Let go of the assumption that the world is against you, or that you were born with a gray cloud over your head. It is an assumption that has no basis in reason or science. Sometimes we pick up a flair for pessimism from a parent who made negative assumptions about the world somewhere along the line. Either way, the sooner you can attribute your pessimism to a unique set of circumstances rather than the state of the world itself, the easier it’ll be to change your perspective.

Use quotes to remind yourself how to be optimistic. Maybe if during a particularly tough day someone mentions some saying that gives you a rare boost of motivation, write it down. Here are a few inspirational sayings:

Even the longest journey begins with a single step.

Only you can make the situation better, so smile and make the situation better!

“Are you kidding me – how can I be optimistic?  There is nothing to be optimistic about in this economy.”

With the constant stream of bad economic news it is very easy to get caught up in thinking that nothing positive is happening.  We start to believe that there is little that we can do to improve our circumstances; we withdraw, play it safe, feel concern, and fear about our future.  We become especially vigilant for further signs that we are at risk.  

Optimistic leadership is not about seeing the world through rose colored glasses. The economic down turn is real and we need to make business decisions based on that reality.  But once you have your plan of attack, optimism will inspire a sense of hopefulness and the confidence that is required to take full advantage of the opportunities that do exist.  

Optimism or pessimism is not about the reality of the situation, it is conscious choice that has a huge impact on your ability to succeed.

Additionally research has confirmed that those who are able to find an optimistic outlook will not only be more successful, they will also live longer, be healthier and happier.  

Here are ten ways to become more optimistic and to energize your organization.

1. Seek positive perspectives and evidence.  Unfortunately most of what is being reported today has a pessimistic tone, so to build a more balanced view, you need to look for the positive signs.   In an economic downturn, pessimists may be more right but optimists will see more opportunity and actually accomplish more.

2. Practice possibility thinking. We have an amazing ability to construct our inner world and outlook, to use self talk to either build ourselves up, or tear ourselves down.  Give yourself permission to reframe your thoughts, to focus on the opportunities not the negative consequences – the 90% that we still have rather than the 10% we have lost.  See bad events as setbacks, transitory not permanent and focus on what you can do to energize and build growth.

3. Build a compelling vision that inspires. Take the time to develop a deep sense of mission and purpose, to get really clear about what you want for your organization and the unique value you can provide.  In the words of Peter Drucker – “the best way to predict the future is to create it”.

4. Surround yourself with positive people. Optimism is a learned habit, and it is contagious.  Seek out people who have a positive outlook – you are only as good as the company you keep.   Expand your support network and consider hiring a business coach to support you as you work through this process.

5. Be aware of the “shadow” you cast in your organization.  As a leader everything you do impacts those around you.  Your mood and your behaviors are watched and interpreted by everyone around you.  Be a good role model, maintaining your composure and a positive attitude – that’s authentic.

6. Encourage open dialog. Being positive and open will draw people towards you.  Staying focused on understanding and listening is especially important with others who don’t feel so optimistic.  Optimism or pessimism is not about the reality of the situation.  You need to remain open to fully understand alternative perspectives and be able to lead people to a more positive future.

7. Build resilience through wellness. Optimists are more resilient to stress and enjoy better health.  Resilience builds a mental toughness and an ability to bounce back from setbacks.  To build your resilience, you need to make purposeful choices to take care of your body, mind, and spirit.

8. Build personal mastery.  This begins with an honest assessment of your capabilities and a lifelong commitment to professional development.  Mastery will bring confidence and the capacity to succeed, creating more reason for optimism.

9. Believe in the capabilities of your team and organization.  One of the most powerful gifts you can give someone is to believe in their potential.  Suddenly they are capable of accomplishing so much more, which in turn gives you more to feel optimistic about.

10. Stay focused and track accomplishments.  When there is a lot of information and distractions it is very important that you keep your eyes focused on the road ahead, on the things that you can do and control.  Celebrating your victories along the way and knowing that although it may be a long road you will get to your destination in the end.


  • Everyone has their times of weakness. You may stumble at times and go back into bad habits but never give up and gradually you will succeed.

  • Don’t confuse pessimism with depression. Depression can make everything look worse than it is.

  • While it is true that you create your own circumstances, accept that the past is the past. Don’t let negative circumstances trigger irrational guilt or pessimism.

  • Realize that it’s not about what happens to you, it’s about how you react to what happens.

  • Avoid cynical/pessimistic entertainment. You are what you watch.


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