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THE CHEMISTRY OF OPTIMISM



Are you a glass half full or glass half empty person? Do you view situations through a lens of the possible or the impossible? Do you tend to be risk averse or too gung-ho! How do you respond to adversity? Does all of that even matter?


Yes, it definitely matters…because optimists have stronger immune systems, will persevere for longer on difficult tasks, and end up in higher paid jobs. (But watch out….extreme optimists are more likely to smoke and less likely to save funds for the future.)


To ‘opt’ is to choose to move towards, to decide. To be optimistic is to believe that the things we opt for will turn out well. We are not talking about blind optimism here, but about realistic optimism – an extremely valuable commodity that drives human beings to attempt the most difficult of tasks and implement the most challenging of strategies. It is about choosing to believe in the optimum or optimal outcome– the best possible outcome or as philosopher Gottfried Leibniz puts it the mindset of the “best possible world.”


While you might recognize a tendency toward optimism or pessimism within yourself, optimism and pessimism are not fixed states – they can be influenced. If you understand the underlying neurochemistry, you can get in the driver’s seat of your own mindset and navigate your way to success.


How? Optimism arises in two ways: from individual belief in oneself and from collective belief. Sometimes we are that lone voice attempting to give others hope and other times we are influenced by a “wave of optimism” around us. Either way, optimism is a choice. We can influence our own point of view by using Physical Intelligence – our ability to influence our own neurochemistry.


The Winning Cocktail for Optimism


Serotonin: Serotonin is the key chemical for self-esteem, well-being and status. To increase optimism, be hyper-vigilant in spotting and stopping negative beliefs and self-talk. Our minds are keen to protect us from perceived risk, but often applies inaccurate templates from the past to our future, which can interfere with optimism. Pessimism is likely to be caused by a drop in Serotonin. To combat that, it is critical for each of us to acknowledge to ourselves the true positive qualities that live within our core.


Dopamine: Dopamine is the major pleasure chemical – it is the great motivator and its release is very connected with the visual cortex of the brain. To improve optimism, visualise a positive future and replay this mental picture regularly.


Oxytocin – Oxytocin is the chemical for social bonding, social responsibility and trust. On difficult tasks, teamwork is vital. We can boost Oxytocin through communication, sharing personal stories, identifying shared goals and mitigating risk. If we build belief over a period of time with others, we can experience that wave of optimism that comes from collective belief.


(Warning: The chemical cocktail for pessimism also includes dopamine, which, when joined by high levels of cortisol, testosterone and adrenalin, leads to defensiveness, survival fears, doubt and retreat.)


Once you understand the chemistry of optimism and feel the different chemicals playing out inside you, you can immediately change your thoughts and emotions – and better control your own mindset.


Chemistry of Optimism Checklist:

- Overcome negativity within yourself and your environment

- Acknowledge your core qualities

- Anticipate future events

- Balance realism with optimism

- Visualise the future

- Tell stories

- Identify shared goals


Get in touch and let us know about your optimistic day!


About Companies In Motion

Transforming how organizations learn and engage, Companies In Motion (CIM) supports you and your organisation’s overall performance.


Many organizations are moving away from the traditional Performance Management models to something more innovative and meaningful. In response to this change, Learning and Development teams are implementing Physical Intelligence programs that support performance across the curriculum: leadership, innovation, change management, team building, sales, negotiating, and more.


Contact CIM for more information on how Physical Intelligence can support performance across your company.


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