“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, it’s unlikely you will step up and take responsibility for making it so. If you assume that there’s no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope.”
– Noam Chomsky
What is real?
Daniel Kahneman, the author of many books, including Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgement, has done a wonderful job of researching and documenting the inconsistency of human perception as well as our misguided belief that people see the world the same way that we do (called naïve realism).
Reality is a complex and multifaceted construct. It is shaped by our perception, and our perception, in turn, is molded by our attitudes, beliefs, and experiences. We all interpret reality through our subjective lens, which means that two people may perceive the same situation very differently.
Those perceptions will shape their behaviors… which will shape reality itself.
In other words, our perceptions of reality — whether a situation is to our benefit or detriment, for instance — make reality because we act on what we believe to be true.
This is why Daniel Kahneman also suggests: “When action is needed, optimism, even of the mildly delusional variety, may be a good thing.”
Research consistently suggests that optimistic people tend to be more successful. This relationship between optimism and success has been documented across various domains, including health, academics, and professional achievement.
For instance, a meta-analysis by Rasmussen, Scheier, and Greenhouse in 2009 reviewed 83 studies and found that optimism was significantly associated with positive physical health outcomes, including decreased likelihood of illness and increased longevity.
Optimism also has proven benefits for mental health. The National Library of Medicine points out that optimism has been linked to reduced risk of depression, a lower level of distress, and greater resistance to the common cold.
Our perceptions shape our reality.
So why not choose perceptions that shape a more positive reality?
Why not choose optimism?
Here are some strategies to help…
Cognitive Reframing: Challenge your initial negative interpretations of events and find a more positive perspective. “This is hard” might become “This is making me stronger!” This shift in mindset can transform challenges into opportunities for growth and learning.
Practice Gratitude: Cultivate a sense of appreciation for what you have. Regular expressions of gratitude can shift focus from negatives to positives. Simple actions, like keeping a gratitude journal, can foster this habit.
Physical Activity: Engage in regular exercise, even simple activities like brisk walking. Physical activity triggers the release of endorphins, known as “feel-good” hormones, which can improve your mood and outlook.
Mindfulness and Meditation: Practice staying present and focused. By reducing worry about the future and rumination on the past, you can cultivate a more optimistic view of the present.
Surround Yourself with Positive Influences: Choose to spend time with people who inspire you and encourage a positive outlook. The people you associate with can significantly influence your mindset and attitude.