How to Stay Optimistic (Even When There’s Every Reason Not to Be)
How do you stay so optimistic?
This is what a few folks have asked me lately…oh, if they only knew.
I’ve been really open with you how I was in huge crisis mode at the beginning of COVID. First, all of my speaking engagements were getting cancelled. Then, maybe my coaching clients needed to put their work with me on hold because they’re either needed as an Essential Services Leader or their business had taken a swift and painful nose dive. Then, my daughter came home from high school sick.
Needless to say, my normally optimistic self threw a great big pity party for me, my family, and the rest of the world.
Would you judge me if I confess that the pity party lasted way longer than I care to admit? As in, a few months?
Judge me or not, I think it’s worthy of being honest about it. I’ve heard a number of folks saying “if one more person says that we are going to be better off on the other side” or “if one more person paints a Kindness Rock, I am going to scream”. That’s telling me we are in a serious optimism crisis. So although I don’t profess to be optimistic about everything, and I’m still deeply worried about the world, and I have austerity measures in my business, and I am keeping my kids’ bubbles as tight as I possibly can (AKA with great difficulty now they’re back to school), there have been some pretty powerful lessons in optimism rituals that I want to share with you.
Wake up optimistic
I have been listening to a lot of audiobooks these days. I’m wondering if you have too? One book that I borrow from the library about every other month is Brene Brown‘s Daring Greatly. Every time I listen to it I have another epiphany. Here’s the one the third time through: most of us wake up every morning from a place of deficit. Even those of us who tend to be pretty positive people probably still think, before their feet even hit the floor:
- I didn’t get enough sleep!
- I have such a busy day ahead!
- How am I’m running behind schedule already?
- How will I ever get through my to-do list?
- What are we even going to eat for dinner today?
Can you relate?
Here’s the alternative: wake up optimistic.
As soon as you catch yourself in that cycle of deficit, reverse the inner dialogue.
- Wow, I got 7 hours of sleep!
- I’m excited about the meeting with ___ today!
- I still have half an hour to get ready!
- Which three things do I most need to get off my to-do list today?
- I’d say scrambled eggs and beans on toast is sufficient for dinner, and if I get more creative than that, cool!
In other words, all of our deficit-based ruminations may be true. And, we don’t have to let it be the mental discourse in our brain before we even have a chance to have a good day.
Hang out with optimistic people
Do you have any of those family or friends that no matter what is going on in their life, they always have it worse than you? Or when things are going well, they’re always driving for the next thing? Whether they’re pessimistic or perfectionistic, they’re not good for you. And if that person that first comes to mind when I describe this individual is you, you’re not good for you. Optimism deflates with all-or-nothing extremes.
Here is the alternative: Pick your company wisely. Hang out with other people who prefer to see what is working versus what’s not. Give extra discretionary time to people who can focus on the future rather than spend all their time looking in the rearview mirror of life. You may need to put some boundaries up, of your time or energy or if they’re even allowed in your bubble right now. If your life is more abundant when you put those boundaries up, maybe you need to keep those boundaries up even after COVID is over and you can all go back to work or school cranks up full time.
This might just be the reset of relationships that you were looking for. Yes, blame it on COVID. And then keep it for yourself.
Close Out Your Day With Optimism
I will admit, I have to really check myself before I go into the house after a long workday. If I have had a back-to-back-to-back day, where I have barely peed (sorry TMI) and I did not eat enough lunch and my to-do list grew rather than shrunk that day, I often have no smile on my face, a furrowed brow, and the second that I have an opening, I tell my family how busy I am.
Guess who’s interested in hearing how busy you are? Only you. Bummer.
Here is the alternative. Reflect on what worked well and what you did get done that day. Give yourself some self-acknowledgement, even if it is small incremental signs of progress. It is so much easier to come back the next day more resourceful and resilient to tackle everything in front of you when you haven’t left the office with your head hanging low, your heart heavy, and your mind whirling. Nobody can recognize you for what you have done except you. I am very embarrassed to admit, as a recognition expert, I sometimes still need to remind myself that recognition starts with me first. So I do this for a living, and can sometimes forget it, you officially get a free pass to course-correct many times over.
What are some of the optimism strategies you use?
And by the way, my Essential Services in healthcare friends, I have a really juicy resource for you. Fellow professional speaker and all-around amazing human Renee Thompson, has put together an optimism calendar. We have provided the link to it here.
Even if you’re not from essential services, and you know somebody who is, please forward it to them. We’re battening down the hatches for the potential of another wave. I suspect you, I, and everyone around us can use all the optimism we can get.
Looking for more optimism? Check out these other blog posts that will help fill your cup:
- Three Hacks to Get Unstuck and Stay Motivated
- Getting Over Fear to Realize Your Greatness Vision
- 10 Life Hacks: Lessons for Your Younger Self