Last week we talked about how to become an optimist, but we didn’t go over why you totally should. Click here to get yourself caught up if you haven’t read that yet, and for those who have, here’s an in-depth list on why you should cultivate an optimistic outlook right now, and maybe turn your life around in the process.
1. It builds resilience
It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot these days, but what exactly is resiliency? When you get down to the core of it, it’s simply the ability to recover from and persevere in the face of adversity. To never give up. To get going when the going gets tough. You know, quotes that people love putting on their Facebook walls but never actually follow through on.
So how do the different outlooks influence resilience?
Pessimism dictates that everything will go wrong, which apart from being a total bummer means that no matter what you do you’ll always feel like it’s only going to get worse. And when you feel like the only way is down, how can you develop resilience? You can’t.
Resilience is all about recovering from setbacks, yet pessimism is all about them getting worse! How can you recover from setbacks if you think they’re only going to get worse?
In turn, this only makes you feel worse about yourself, so you don’t bother doing anything. What’s the point? Everything’s gonna go wrong anyway, so why bother? This then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy where nothing gets better and you’re justifying it to yourself by telling anyone who will listen, “I told you so.”
Worst of all, this paralyses you from ever achieving all the things you otherwise might’ve because you can’t take the first step! That also means that whenever something bad happens, you’re more prone to severe bouts of depression which you’re less likely to recover from.
Optimism sees things a little differently.
Instead of dictating that everything will go wrong, optimism cheerfully tells you that things will get better, kind of like that motivation speaker who speaks too loud and quotes too many people who you don’t even believe anyway.
This doesn’t mean all optimists are naïve (or annoying), however.
See, when you believe things will get better, you’re seeing adversity as only temporary instead of permanent. Why does this matter? Because you’re more likely to recover from and persevere in the face of adversity when you don’t think it’ll last forever, which brings me to the second benefit of optimism:
2. It fosters perseverance
Combined with resilience, optimism fosters perseverance which is essential to achieving success.
How many times have you made a list of New Year’s resolutions only to go back to your old habits? What about the times you promised to haul your ass to the gym only to blow it off with TV and pizza? Or maybe you’ve started a novel only to give up three chapters later? That’s happened to me more times than I care to remember.
Every time New Year’s rolled around, I’d make a resolution to write a novel. And every time, I’d give up after chapter three because it got too difficult (seriously, what is it about chapter three that makes it so difficult? Any novelists want to weigh in here?). Eventually, I stopped writing altogether, which resulted in a bout of writer’s block so severe it lasted five years.
Five. Fucking. Years.
Think about that for a minute.
My pessimistic ass sorely lacked perseverance, giving up after the smallest hint of difficulty, which allowed (yes, allowed) me to go through five years without writing. Why? Because I was so damn sure every word I wrote would be absolute rubbish so I didn’t bother. I was scared to fail so I didn’t try. And where did that get me? Not a publishing deal, I can tell you that.
The point is, if you ever want to get anything done, you need to persevere. You need grit. You need tenacity. And you need optimism.
Optimism tells you sure, things suck right now, but they won’t suck forever. Perseverance tells you to get back on that horse. And together, they make sure you write that damn novel or get your ass to the gym or stick out your New Year’s resolutions, things that lead you closer to the success and fulfilment you dream of achieving.
Don’t believe me?
I’ve written two (still unpublished, but I’m not giving up) novels in two years now, with a third in the works. That would’ve been nearly impossible three years ago. Heck, there would’ve been a bigger chance of pigs flying or hell freezing over than me picking up the pen again, but thanks to perseverance and optimism, that’s no longer the case.
There’s a reason that’s my high school’s motto, and that’s because:
3. It allows you to deal with failure, then rise ABOVE it
Let’s face it, we all make mistakes. We made them yesterday, we’ll make them today, and we’ll continue making them for the rest of our lives. Some of those mistakes will even be big enough to call failures.
Does that scare you?
When you’re optimistic, you won’t allow failure to define you. No, optimistic people know that failure only exists if you don’t learn from it—and if you let it.
Let’s follow through on my novel example above:
During writer’s block’s five-year death grip, I was unable to write a single page, let alone a novel. Technically, I could still write. But I couldn’t write well, which made me feel like a massive failure considering it was my biggest dream to become a published author.
As the feelings of failure grew bigger, the less I picked up the pen which as you probably guessed, made those feelings of failure even more prominent until it was all I could think about. It’s a vicious cycle. I got nothing done. I would learn later that that wasn’t the right way to deal with failure.
No, what I should’ve done was examine the root cause of writer’s block, which turned out to be the result of ironically, my fear of failure.
What failure was I afraid of? Was it the rejections from the publishers? The scathing reviews by readers and critics alike? The fact that nobody would like what I spent my sweat, blood and tears (and so much of my time) writing?
Of course, the pessimist in me convinced me it was all of the above. It had to take a break up of all things to break free of my fears for me to truly see that compared to the heartbreak, which was very real (and very painful), the fears of failure were all in my head. They weren’t real. How could they be? I didn’t even do anything yet!
I had let my imagined failures paralyse me to the point of not doing anything at all.
Sure, there’s always a chance my manuscript will be rejected by a publisher, or a critic or two won’t like what I’ve written, yet there’s also a chance that after all the rejections, a brave publisher will sign me on and a reader will enjoy my work. Literally anything can happen! But if I don’t start writing, none of it will and that would be the greatest failure of all—the failure of inaction.
Don’t let failure define you. Don’t fear it. Don’t let it get so bad that it takes a broken heart to prompt you to start. And most important of all, learn from it because:
4. It forces you to confront your limiting self-beliefs
I used to think I was a shitty writer.
Other writers could concoct unforgettable characters and tell such compelling stories and still have enough talent leftover to lovingly craft elegant prose. How could I compete with that, in such a saturated market no less? Never mind the countless hours of revision, the numerous rejection letters, or the voracious reading to master the craft. No, I thought that was all talent.
Boy, how wrong was I.
You probably have a few of those limiting self-beliefs yourself. Things like I’m too inexperienced to start my own business, I’m too ugly to attract the partner of my choice, I’m too depressed to enjoy life etc. Well, I’m telling you it’s not true. Your pessimism is just making you see it that way.
I wasn’t a shitty writer.
I was just inexperienced. Inexperience can change. I just have to reframe my thinking from its all talent to it takes hard work and I can get better.
You can too.
The great thing about optimism is that it leaves room for growth, something that’s needed for success and general enlightenment, and yeah, happiness as well. But in order to grow, you need to confront and abolish your limiting self-beliefs. Optimism makes that possible. Pessimism just wants you to stew in the comfort of your pyjamas with your fears closely guarded so you don’t get hurt.
The ironic thing is, if you don’t get hurt, you don’t grow. And if you don’t grow, you don’t know what you’re capable of.
I bet all of you are stronger than you think. I bet you’re all capable of so much more too.
And if you’re still not on board, that’s okay. Maybe the fifth benefit will convince you:
5. It promotes happiness
We sufferers of depression know how hard happiness is to come by, so why not make it easier on ourselves by adopting an outlook that promotes it?
I’ve personally experienced deeper, longer lasting joy when I switched to optimism. I’m more appreciative when it happens too. But don’t just take my word for it—switch to optimism and try it out yourself!
So, to sum up:
- Optimism builds resilience
Adversity is only temporary and you can rise above it.
- It fosters perseverance
Things may suck right now, but you still need to get up on that horse if you want to get anything done.
- It allows you to deal with failure, then rise ABOVE it
Don’t let failure define you. Don’t fear it. Learn from it—it truly is a blessing in disguise.
- It forces you to confront your limiting self-beliefs
Pain allows you to grow, and you’ll find that you’re capable of so much more than you ever thought possible.
- It promotes happiness
‘Nuff said 😉
Now that you know the life changing benefits of optimism, what’s stopping you from heading over to the bright side? 🙂
Until next time,
Your friend in the trenches, the depressed duck