Why Optimism Fuels Success
By Dr. Jill Ammon-Wexler, Pioneer brain/mind researcher | October 31, 2006
Lately our everyday reality seems to leave little room for optimism. People around the world are suffering from very real natural and personal crises. Our TV's and newspapers are packed with sadness and fear.
In times like these it is very important to hold tight to a powerful life success tool – optimism.
Why optimism? Because optimism physically lights up a very important portion of your brain that increases your ability to create positive answers to challenges.
So what is Optimism?
You might fairly ask what optimism is.
First: optimism is not just a Pollyanna "everything is wonderful" attitude.
It's actually a refined mental style of how one chooses to respond to life. Webster's Dictionary defines optimism as "an inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events, or to anticipate the best possible outcome."
But you might fairly ask how you can be optimistic in the face of today's often overwhelming personal challenges?
Let's face it, life can be real tough at times. But even in the midst of personal turmoil and overwhelming crisis, the same thing holds: We choose how to perceive what is happening, and also choose how we will respond.
Our Greatest Life-Success Power
It's easy to feel overwhelmed at times and fall into a pattern of non-optimistic choices. This often occurs as part of the "attitudinal meltdown" found with chronic or overwhelming stress.
But this ability to choose our mental outlooks and actions is actually the greatest life-success power we humans have. Every moment we have a choice to either let things wear us down and feel depressed, or to set our minds in a more positive direction.
Virtually everything happening to you right now offers this choice. And it doesn't even matter if that "thing" is "good" or "bad." Even if something undesirable happens, you still have the power to choose how you will interpret and respond to that event.
Mayo Clinic researcher Dr. Toshihiko Maruta, reports that optimists have a dramatically higher level of physical and mental functioning than pessimists.. "How you perceive what goes on around you and how you interpret it has an impact on your longevity, and also affect the quality of your entire life."
The Optimism-Financial Success Connection Optimism is also at the very heart of financial health..
Why do I say this? Ask almost any self-made millionaire about their path to prosperity and you'll get a similar story: Just like learning any other skill, learning to create lasting prosperity is learned. And the learning process is based on trial and error.
Consider the term "trial and error." "Trial" means you're going to try a lot of different approaches to accumulating wealth, and "error" means not all of them are going to work.
I've personally been there myself. On my personal path to creating financial independence I've tried many different approaches. A few of these trials have been successful, but many have led straight into out-and-out struggles. And have there been errors along the way? Oh yes!
Here's the big lesson I've learned along the way: One of the most important tools in your "financial health tool bag" is the ability to remain optimistic. There are other important tools to be sure â€¦ like passion, drive and focus. But without optimism, you'll never get beyond where you are today.
But optimism isn't about denying reality. And it isn't about being idealistic, or chasing after some totally unrealistic condition or situation
Many people seem more adept at practicing dissatisfaction than optimism. They worry about money, complain about their business, and compare themselves poorly to others. In terms of the physical health of their brains – they are actually building and strengthening the neural networks associates with their problems.
But most psychologists agree that the aptitude for optimism is not genetically determined. In other words, anyone can learn to be optimistic. All it requires is a good grasp of reality, along with practice.
In a very interesting cover story, the French magazine Psychologies (January 2005) suggested we focus on "intelligent optimism."
Intelligent optimists don't deny problems, they adjust to them while still seeking an opportunity for progress. Intelligent optimists don't allow themselves to get carried away by circumstances they can't change. They instead focus on things within their grasp, and that they can enjoy.
Intelligent optimists also know that for every problem there is (at least the beginning of) a solution, and that the search for that solution can be inspirational in itself. They are also not afraid of negative thoughts, which they realize offer some protection and help them stay realistic.
Just Nod "Yes"
Intelligent optimism starts with a realistic attitude -- with facing the reality of your current situation, identifying what you can't change, and going to work on what you CAN change or improve.
Here's an interesting tool that can move you along even faster developing intelligent optimism: Nod your head "yes."
A recent Ohio State University study proved that nodding or shaking your head serves as "self-validation" that confirms to us how we feel about our own thoughts.
The researchers found that nodding your head up and down is, in effect, telling yourself that you have confidence in your own thoughts – whether those thoughts are positive or negative. Shaking your head does the opposite: its gives you less confidence in your own thoughts.
"One of the most surprising things we found," explained lead researcher Dr Petty, "is that if you're thinking negative thoughts while you're nodding, this actually strengthens your disapproval. What head nodding does is to increase your confidence in your negative thoughts. In contrast, when the thoughts were mostly positive, then nodding increases confidence in these thoughts."
Try this: As you go about your day today, be aware of how you are responding to what is happening around you.
Try making a conscious choice to respond, rather than just automatically react in your customary way. Nod your head to remind yourself that you are holding a positive, optimistic attitude.