The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
– Winston Churchill
Optimism isn’t a luxury, it’s a tool and a powerful weapon you can wield to shape things as you want them to be.
How to practice optimism
1. Acknowledge the bad. Focus on the good. Explore the possibilities.
Pause and take the time to acknowledge the bad, all of the bad, then do the same with the good. Assess all risk and opportunities and explore the possibilities.
2. Look for partial solutions.
With looming deadlines and inflexible stakeholders, you’re better off taking the small wins, going in the right direction then dwell on the possible perfect situation. Create momentum with those small wins and let the optimism snowball.
3. Plan for play.
Although planning for play sounds ingenue, it’s important to give yourself and the team the space and time to let your hair down.
4. More “Yes and…”, avoid “ Yes but…”
In Tina Fey’s bestselling book, Bossypants, Fey outlines the rules of improv: Always say “Yes, and…” meaning, always agree, and add something to the discussion. “Yes, but…” is the evil twin to “Yes, and…”, halting collaboration, negotiation and effective communication. This small, positive communication tool makes a huge difference.
5. Give yourself and your team room for optimism.
Similar to planning for play, intentionally giving yourself and the team room for optimism allows promotes & cultivates positive morale which ends up being super infectious. Optimism starts at the top. Curate your own belief first. If you believe it—and show it—your team will too.
6. Believe everyone has the best intentions.
Everyone has an agenda so it can be hard to embrace the idea that everyone around you has best intentions. But if you go into any situation believing that everyone is trying to make the final result better, chances are that the final result will, in fact, be better.
7. Try it.
Just simply give it a go. Plain and simple. What’s stopping you?
8. Ask for it.
What do you do if someone just isn’t feeling it? When the intensity or pressure to produce makes optimism feel impossible? Go ahead & ask for it. “I’m asking you to be more optimistic about this. Can you?” They might not at first. But talk it out and keep re-visiting the same question. They’ll eventually come around.