Seeing Life As a Storehouse Of Endless Realistic Possibilities

Life is so uncertain so why take risks? Nobody really knows what tomorrow holds so why plan for anything? If there’s no guarantee my hard work will pay off  why buckle down? Que sera, sera.

Do you often feel helpless and listless? Do you give up easily? Do you see life from the perspective of your failures and as such always expect the worst? ? Are your setbacks permanent fixtures in your life and do they undermine everything you do? Do you attribute whatever success you have to luck rather than to your own capabilities. How about your misfortunes? Do you tend to blame yourself when it does happen? Do you believe that bad events will last a long time? Is your health suffering because of depression? Affirmative answers to these questions are indicative of a life of a pessimist.

Here’s a story that may just shift your mind to the bright side of life:

Several years ago a young lady gazed at herself in the mirror and self-declared that someday she’s going to be a beauty queen. But along the path towards that dream came failures and disappointments. On her first pageant, her beauty and wit was noticed but she only ended up as a runner up.  With a stronger determination to win, she worked a little harder on her weaknesses and joined again the next year. What she looked forward to as a winning and defining moment became a dismal failure — she didn’t even make it to the top 15! She was confident that she had what it took to be a beauty queen but it seemed like the rest of the world did not. The defeat was a good excuse for the young lady to give up on her dream but it was not good enough an excuse for her.  So, she joined again the following year accompanied by a barrage of negative comments for trying too hard. But with deaf ears turned to such a noise, her determination and hard work paid off. She won to represent the Philippines in the 2015 Miss Universe Beauty Pageant and eventually wore the Miss Universe crown. This optimistic lady is Ms. Pia Wurtzbach.

Ms. Wurtzbach’s attitude towards her dream and failures is realistic optimismRealistic optimism is one of the self-management capacities of emotional intelligence (EI). It is defined as an optimistic, hopeful outlook in life that translates into realistic positive action to achieve success. It expects success rather than failure as it focuses more on the opportunities rather than on the threats. It believes that things can get better and expects the future to usher in positive changes.

People with this competence

 see obstacles and bad events as temporary and surmountable, challenges.
 have a self-talk style that springs from an outlook of expecting success.
 believe not only that they can succeed but also that they will succeed.
 apply this belief to all they do, not just to a single task.
 operate from a mindset of success rather than from fear of failure.
 see success as a function of people’s motivation and ability.
 believe bad events are not their fault; rather they are just inevitable external realities they can surmount.
 are unfazed by defeat, and when confronted by a bad situation, they perceive it as a challenge to try harder.
 do not see setbacks as a personal flaw; rather, they see setbacks as temporary.
 do better at work, in school, on the playing field, and in the rest of life.
 enjoy better health; and may even live longer, according to recent research.

It has to be emphasised though that realistic optimism as the word “realistic” suggests is different from overly positive thinking. Some people equate this kind of attitude to power and to control that give them the capacity to turn things out the way they want to. This is absurd and can be dangerous as it turns a blind eye on real issues and great risks. Consequently, they usually end up lying to themselves. On the other hand, realistic optimism is optimism under control. it is not just having positive thoughts and expecting great things to happen. It’s having a realistic assessment of one’s capacity, situation, resources, and the costs involved. And if things don’t look well they can still believe that by being persistent, creative, and resourceful things can work out well.

Studies have already established that emotional capacities can be learned and enhanced. according to Jimmy Dean, “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”  Here are tips to get you started:

  Tune into your self-talk about the adversity in your life.
  Examine your beliefs about the adversity, or how you interpret it.
  Take note of your feelings about these beliefs – do you feel sad, anxious, guilty?
  Note that pessimistic explanations result in passivity and dejection. Optimistic explanations, on the other hand, energize you.
  Dispute the negative beliefs; don’t allow them to become habitual or to circle endlessly around your mind (i.e., “This is absurd, I’m blowing things out of proportion.”).
  Look for evidence or alternative explanations to dispute negative beliefs (“There’s no evidence here that I’m a failure; I just messed up this time.”).
  “De-catastrophize” (term borrowed from Dr. Martin Seligman).

There will be challenges ahead if you decide to take on this journey to enhance your capacity to be realistically optimistic. But take courage for in due time, as you persevere and tap on your other emotional capacities, your life will soon see bright lights ahead.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill

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