Optimism

Optimism is a way of thinking and is closely related to positive thinking. Law of Attraction also states that what you get is what you ask for. Despite its studied and proven advantages over pessimism, one should guard against confusing optimism with delusion and wishful thinking.

There is the classic example of the “Half filled Glass of Milk” to illustrate the contradictory perceptions of an optimist and a pessimist on an identical situation. The optimist sees a glass half full of milk whereas the pessimist sees it as a half empty glass of milk. Both are factually correct, but idealistically different. Optimists are focused on the brighter side of things and are forward-looking exploring for opportunities to achieving more while pessimists are more concerned with the obstacles on the way and the “futility” (as they see it) of trying to overcome them.

Dr. Martin Seligman, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania has done groundbreaking research on optimism and related human attitudes. In his book titled “Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life”, he says that optimists tend to outperform pessimists in all spheres of life from professional successes to personal achievements, general well-being and longevity.

Studies further reveal that optimists or pessimists are not born, but made from their past experiences, training received in looking at things in a positive or negative perspective, and the ability to shift from one view to the other as necessary. So the good news is that any pessimist can become an optimist with proper training. The capacity to be an optimist at one time and a pessimist at another, depending on the situation presented, is the best approach.

Let us now look at some practical aspects of optimism.

 Can optimism lead to a downfall of a firm?
A pessimistic leader, by viewing a challenge through the eyes of his or her bad past experiences sends negative signals down the line, adversely affecting morale, resolve and motivation. No organization can prosper under such poor leadership attributes. However, an optimist with self-motivation and positive thinking achieves the impossible by looking at the same goal as a challenge to be accomplished and taking positive action to achieve it. This does not mean that you could achieve anything by being simply optimistic. Being overly optimistic as to set prices too high above the market demand could result in loss of sales, precipitating the downfall of an enterprise. Experimenting too far with innovations solely on one’s intuition ignoring factual evidence based on modern research and IT could also spell disaster to a firm. What is required is learned optimism devoid of a tendency to rush in like fools where angels fear to tread.

 When leading an organization through a crisis, would you show up as an upbeat person to keep the motivation up?
Unless you really believe in a cause you are promoting, an assumed false bravado could show up; and if it does, it could be counter productive. A better strategy would be to keep the motivation up by all means, but put your cards on the table and bare and share the true facts with all concerned. In spurring Great Britain to war and final victory, Sir Winston Churchill only said, “I have nothing to offer, but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

 When you are cautious, you might be labeled as a pessimist – How will you overcome that perception?
Remember, when you are driving in thick fog, it is pragmatic to be more pessimistic than optimistic by visualizing realistically that a vehicle could materialize in front of your windscreen at short notice! It is how realistically you assess a situation that is more important than whether the approach is optimistic or pessimistic.

 A happy mood displayed by a leader is conducive to increasing productivity; but, as a worthy leader, would you display a happy mood in this present economic setup? If so, how will you justify it?
A happy mood displayed is a reflection of the leader’s inner confidence and optimism of being in good control of the situation in hand. There is not much of a difference in the outcome of events through optimistic or pessimistic thinking only. It is actually through the productive action set in motion through your optimism or the inaction through pessimism that makes the ultimate difference. Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you are right.” Even under the most uncompromising situations, a great leader should have the capacity to see the light at the end of the tunnel, apprise and motivate the teammates, assess the situation realistically and map out the escape route, and continue with the happy mood while executing the options of hibernation, action, inaction and their precise timing appropriately.

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