Optimizing Optimism

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A large part of optimism is believing that “goodness” pervades reality. Makes sense, then,   that optimists are typically of good mood. But what if you don’t consider yourself an optimist or just aren’t in a ‘good mood’ kind of place right now? What then? Or more to the point, HOW then? How can you reset, relaunch, and/or rejigger your mood?

How can you “optimize your optimism,” if you will, quickly and efficiently – in an “Occam’s Razor” kind of way?

Attributed to the 14th-century English logician and theologian William of Occam, Occam’s Razor, refers to the law of parsimony, economy or succinctness, as in the best (and fastest) way to truly understand something is by, first, eliminating as many assumptions as you can about it – like me assuming I hadn’t already written something about this somewhere in my GottaGettaBLOG! archives because, indeed, I did.

Titled, “Separating Yourself from Your Problems,” the following was first published in February 2006 and STILL seems like a good way to approach things:


Separating Yourself from Your Problems

How good are you at separating yourself from your problems? Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism, suggests that this is yet another thing that optimists can do better than pessimists. Here are some of the distinctions that Dr. Seligman makes between the two groups:

Yes, Pessimists (and Optimists who’ve stopped feeling particularly optimistic) tend to see their problems as Permanent, Personal, and Pervasive, while Optimists (and Pessimists doing their best to empower their optimistic tendencies) tend to see their problems as Temporary, External, and Specific.

Note that sometimes pessimism is the more prudent perspective to hold, such as when the cost of potential failure is extremely high. But being pessimistic out of habit isn’t always in your best interest.

So, if you’re bothered by incessant a pessimistic attitude and negative self-talk, try this:

  • Try looking at your situation as temporary and not permanent. “This, too, shall pass” is a good thing to keep in mind.
  • Try recognizing that while the problem you’re facing may be negatively affecting you, it’s not about you – even if it’s still yours to remedy.
  • Try defining the problem as specifically as possible, so that you can recognize parts of the situation that are not the problem. Challenge the assumption that the problem is yet another example of a more pervasive set of problems. (It may well be, but don’t just assume that it is – make Occam proud!)

Don’t worry if the shift doesn’t come easy at first. Like anything else of import, sometimes it takes practice. So practice. Practice being optimistic. And if positive thinking seems too big of a leap for you, start by practicing non-negative thinking.

Help the problems you face feel more manageable, more doable, and less burdensome by separating yourself from your problems and you’ll have far more energy to deal with whatever problems do come your way.


Simpler still, I’m just going to go take a brisk walk around the block and shake it all off!

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Slow Down Your Listening

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“How many times do you find your mind wandering when someone is talking to you? No, you’re not abnormal. And you don’t have attention deficit disorder. Most people speak at an average rate of about 120 words a minute. But most people can listen about four times faster. So you mind fills in the gaps by thinking of other things. Be aware of this and slow down your listening. Force yourself to stay focused, so that you can really comprehend everything the speaker is saying.”

Article Source: A sample issue of Communication Solutions newsletter (www.manageBetter.biz; 800.878.5331)

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How to L.E.A.R.N. Better

image source: pixabayIt’s hard to learn things in group settings: Some group members are quicker studies than others; some are more willing to ask questions than others; some are more interested. And all too often what may be relevant to one person is wildly irrelevant to others (read: you).

Many teachers (and mentors, coaches, facilitators, trainers, speakers, bosses, and such) take  a “Goldilocks” approach to their tutelage – eschewing “too fast” and “too slow” for teaching “just right.” But in doing so, they bore half of their group or class or audience or team by going “too slow,” and overwhelm the other half by going “too fast”. Not good.

Another popular (read: bad) approach they use might be called the “Golden Rule” approach to tutelage – “Here’s how I learn best,” they say, “so that’s how YOU’LL learn best.” Wrong. Again.

It’s undeniable that many teachers (and mentors, coaches, facilitators, trainers, bosses, and such) have found the balance. They’ve figured out how to be relevant and resonant to their audience, no matter how diverse. And to that I say, “BRAVO!”

But what if they’re not? What can we do, as meeting attendees and participants to help ourselves learn notwithstanding? How can we take greater responsibility TO learn, TO share, TO grow and TO make the most out of less-than ideal circumstances?

Here’s how to L.E.A.R.N., anyway:

  • L – Look for opportunities to ask clarifying questions … and ask them and the follow-up questions that the answers engender.
  • E – Encourage others to engage more deeply … and learn from their learning, sharing, and growth.
  • A – Accept that learning is not linear … and recognize that frustration and unknowing are often precursors to wonderfully vibrant ‘developmental leaps’ if you just stay with it a little longer.
  • R – Regularly share your salient realizations with others … and thereby help solidify whatever you ARE learning and quite possibly add to it.
  • N – Never  underestimate the power in your continued growth and development.

As John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” So if you want to be a better leader, go learn, share, and grow – no matter how difficult a task it may seem.


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What Leaders Can Learn from Opening Day

Hey Cubs fans! Today is Opening Day! And, while I won’t be at Wrigley Field today (as I’ve been on many an Opening Day) I will be watching the game (on WGN-TV) and tweeting along side this afternoon. So leave a message at the tone!

There’s a great leadership lesson in Opening Day: That being FULLY PRESENT really matters. Last year’s successes are, by and large, irrelevant. (The business version of this is  “What Have You Done For Me, Lately?”) Similarly, last year’s failures are, by and large, irrelevant, too. All that REALLY matters today is how each player plays … TODAY. That’s how me and my Tweeps will tweet about them, I suspect. (Along with some other fun stuff, too, I suspect!)

So what if each day was YOUR Opening Day? How might you prepare differently? How might you show up differently? How might you play differently?

Tell me about it – but not this afternoon. Unless you want to leave me a message at the tone!

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The Shelf Life of One’s Impact and Influence

It’s tautological to say, but much of our reputation is based on what others already know about us. (Of course SOME of our reputation is based on what others THINK they know about us, too, right?!)

What if we had no reputation, though? What if every day started with a blank slate? What if all memories of our work were erased at the stroke of midnight, a la some Cinderella-like master reset button? How might that change what our TODAY would look like?

  • What if no one could remember the great work we did yesterday? (What if no one could remember our screw-ups from yesterday, for that matter?!) How would we assert credibility in such a world?
  • What if no remembered who we were? How would we approach relationship-building in such a world?
  • What if no one remembered our particular areas of expertise? How would we align expectations in such a world?

It strikes me that many of us rely on – nay, NEED – others to remember an awful lot about us for us to be at our best. Contrast that to someone who’s just starting a new job at a new company in a new city where they know no one. Everyone’s impression of them would be solely based on what they did TODAY – what they did RIGHT HERE AND NOW. No coattails to ride on; No bad recollections to be undermined by.

What would that be like for YOU? Would it be wonderfully refreshing to be able to start each day anew like that? Or scarier than hell to know you’d have to prove yourself all over again each and every day? Or would it feel just like how your days typically are already?

Regardless, understanding your impact – and taking full responsibility for it – is a fundamental aspect of what Justin Menkes calls Executive Intelligence. Learn more at: http://leadershiptraction.com/executive-intelligence/.


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