Finding the Rainbow… What is Optimism?
“Look on the bright side!”
“Rainy days bring rainbows.”
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
We’ve all heard one of these statements at one point or another and perhaps wondered…
Does being optimistic mean I have to feel happy or think positively ALL of the time?
Not in my book! Honestly, that sounds exhausting to me.
The word optimism can sometimes be misinterpreted to mean positive thinking at every turn, which again, sounds exhausting.
For our purposes, let’s first define what it’s not. Optimism is NOT:
- Sticking your head in the sand
- Wishful thinking
- Pretending life isn’t unfolding around you
- Thinking happy thoughts every minute
- Seeing all of the possible outcomes of a situation
- Widening your lens & considering other options (not just the ‘bad’ ones)
- Having hope & taking action at the same time
“So, I don’t just lie down & think happy thoughts then?”
No! With optimism, you’re hopeful about the future AND you take action towards the successful outcome that you envision.
For me, optimism is a state of mind that allows me to access the lesson in all situations, regardless of how trying they may be. It can even be choosing to believe that there’s a greater meaning.
When we’re in a good mood, being optimistic feels easier… wouldn’t you agree?
But what happens when you’re going through a challenging situation? Do you choose to look for all of the possible outcomes or do you play all of the negative ones over & over again in your head?
If cultivating optimism hasn’t been on your list of priorities, I invite you to reconsider!
Studies in neuroscience have proven that maintaining an optimistic outlook greatly influences the way we live our life. People who choose to be optimistic are more likely to:
- Have healthier self-esteem
- Have healthier relationships
- Be more resilient
- Be better leaders
- Practice better health habits
It’s all about control…
I find that sometimes we get so stuck in wanting to know how things are going to unfold that we lose out on cultivating curiosity and creativity as tools to expand our options.
We may not have control over the way things are going to unfold, but we do have the choice to adjust ourselves each time life takes an unexpected turn.
I understand that when we’re in the rut it’s hard to envision getting unstuck… it’s hard to see the “bright side” or the silver lining.
Being optimistic doesn’t mean you have to swallow your feelings and pretend everything is ok when you’re in a tough situation. It’s important to first feel the emotions that are present (please do so!).
You’re allowed to have and process difficult emotions.
Once you’ve given yourself the time to sit & feel, you then have the opportunity to choose how to proceed. That’s where the optimistic mindset comes in and plays its role.
Remember that your thoughts contribute to your emotions, and those emotions contribute to your overall wellbeing.
Finding the rainbow…
Is there an event in your life right now that you’re struggling with? A situation that’s making you feel stuck?
Here are some suggestions that might help you move through some of the gray clouds & bring light to the situation:
#1 – Write a list of all the possible outcomes you can think of. Go wild with this!
- All outcomes are allowed here (even ones that seem unrealistic and far-fetched).
- Once you’re done writing, step back and take a look at your list – you’ve widened your perspective!
- Do any of these outcomes spark your creativity? Perhaps one of them can begin to show you how to move forward.
#2 – Share what you’re going through with a friend. Maybe as you talk about it, you can start to see other angles and achieve clarity of mind.
#3 – For my spiritual folks, use prayer and/or meditation to fuel your optimism and cultivate a more positive outlook.
We don’t have to know the answers all at once. Most of the time (if not all the time) the answers come along the journey… we just have to focus on being the light and walking forward.
“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” -Jimmy Dean
Breathe and know that you can handle these unexpected turns.
You, my dear friend, are more powerful than you can imagine!