• December 5th, 2019

Opinion: Notes on finding optimism in a pessimistic milieu


KJ Dell’Antonia reassuringly writes that it is still possible to “raise optimistic kids in pessimistic times”.
 “There are excellent reasons for anyone – nations, businesses, schools – to seek out the optimistic. Optimists are more resilient. They make better entrepreneurs, experience better outcomes, live longer and are more satisfied with their relationships. We live in especially pessimistic times. We are pessimistic about the environment, about the government, and education.”

It looks like a lack of communication often gives birth to the assumption of what the other person is thinking or feeling. Yet, as often turns out, assumptions are quite incorrect.

Indeed, experts go so far as to argue that it does not matter how educated, talented, rich or cool one thinks he or she is, the most steadfast measure of a person’s character is how they treat others. One commentator has a crisp yet pithy piece of advice: “We need to be antidotes to stress, not the cause.”
When one extends this possibility of optimism onto the workplace, Paul Fein writes that, “work teams are effective when they successfully use their distributed expertise to effectively and efficiently perform as a team to complete given tasks.”

 Michelle Gielan makes the everyday observation that “it’s hard to escape the fact that chronic stress is one of the greatest threats to well-being in modern times.” Writing earlier in March this year, she cited a report by the National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health, which noted that “75 percent of workers say they are more stressed than the previous generation and 40 percent place themselves on the high end of the stress spectrum.”

“Optimists are more likely to seek out and follow advice from someone they trust. Optimism sometimes get a bad rap because people often connect it with Pollyanna (an excessively cheerful or optimistic person) and her rose-coloured glasses ignoring reality. During a restructuring exercise at a company, a manager told me that the best way to help his team stay positive was not to talk about what was going on. The man was fired for mismanaging his department.”

Gielan says “optimism does not mean ignoring reality. In our work, we define optimism as the expectation of good things to happen, and the belief that behaviour matters, especially in the face of challenges. A rational optimist is able to see reality for what it is, while maintaining the belief that actions can improve the situation.”

She also encourages people to always celebrate progress, not perfection. “Whether you are trying to switch roles at work or launch a new idea, waiting for perfection can be your greatest enemy.”
 In The Gifts of Imperfection, acclaimed author Brene Brown writes that, “understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction and life paralysis.” 

The associate director of Columbia University’s Motivation Science Centre, Heidi Grant Halvorson writes that, “you are under a lot of pressure so much that at times, you suspect the quality of your work suffers for it. This is life in the modern workplace. It is more or less impossible to be any kind of professional these days and not experience frequent bouts of intense pressure.”

 Horror fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft famously asserted that “the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

Accordingly, Alice Boyes proposes a simple yet expressive character trait for the testy and pessimistic times. She believes that every day – every gift of a new day – should be welcomed with gratitude. 
 “Instead of grabbing your phone first thing to check the headlines or your email, create a media moat (to temporarily render email and adverts traffic invalid), and start your day by listing three things you are grateful for, and why. This two-minute daily practice has rewired elderly pessimists to become optimistic after just two weeks.”  


Staff Reporter
2019-11-15 08:50:25 | 20 days ago

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