And here comes spring. We shake off the gray days of winter, put the turtlenecks and wool sweaters in mothballs and embrace the optimism that comes with new growth.
Spring is a great opportunity to cultivate the qualities of courage and optimism, to strengthen our belief in ourselves and our ability to achieve and overcome challenges…to build our optimism.
Optimism is easy when things are going well, but can be the first thing to go when setbacks happen. Sometimes the world appears to be out of our control and we need techniques to get our hands back on the wheel.
In moments of doubt or pessimism, our protective, defensive mind says, ‘Why bother? . . . nice try, but it’ll never really work out for you . . . stay under the duvet . . . who are you to expect great things of yourself? . . . don’t expose yourself . . . it’s not worth it . . . is this where I mess up once and for all?’ And then there’s the classic ‘imposter syndrome’, which may add: ‘Will I be found out as a fraud?’ Such thoughts arise when our sense of personal status drops. It is a different story when the reviews are great. We feel expansive and proud, like someone with a purpose who has a right to be here.
Serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine are the critical ingredients for optimism. When a setback happens, our self-esteem drops, our bubble bursts and we fear our social status will drop with it. In this frame of mind, it is far more difficult to take the actions necessary to move forwards. People fear they will be passed over for promotion, won’t be accepted into that university course, won’t make their parents proud; an actor fears the phone will stop ringing; sports professionals fear losing form and being beaten by younger athletes. Accurate analysis and learning from failures is critical to competitive success and the chemistry of confidence. For the chemistry of optimism, we need heightened awareness of our emotions and the courage to face up to the negative ones, enhanced body awareness and a shift in mindset.
Psychologist Dr Carol S. Dweck’s research on growth versus fixed mindsets has changed the way we think about optimism. A growth mindset interprets any setback or mistake as an area for growth rather than a failure leading to loss of confidence. Feedback is therefore welcomed, as it provides useful direction towards areas to work on, rather than providing a commentary on personal traits, good or bad.
We will take a closer look at how to develop a learning mindset in our posts this week and next. In the meantime, try this quick Life Hack to build your optimism:
• Think of a setback or mistake you have made.
• With an imaginary camera, zoom in and see a ‘close- up’ of yourself.
• Remember the intensity of the feelings at the moment of impact.
• Now zoom out and hover in wide angle over a view of the whole scene, including events past and present.
• See all the elements that are contributing.
• Know that you are not alone and that others have experienced, or are at this very moment experiencing, similar situations.
• Decide to be curious and to learn.
With this technique, you’re on your way to a more optimistic outlook. Check back for more this week and next – we’ll be posting additional insight and tips on how to maintain and regain optimism.
About Companies in Motion
There are over 80 easy to use techniques and tips to build our Physical Intelligence. You can read about all of them in our new book, Physical Intelligence: Harness Your Body’s Untapped Intelligence to Achieve More, Stress Less and Live More Happily available from Simon and Schuster. (Order here.) (Multiple translations will be available later in 2019.)