The Restart and the Power of Optimism
Updated: Jul 31, 2020
“Someone I once loved gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.” ― Mary Oliver
The physical and emotional toll, and broad economic fallout of this pandemic is painful and widespread.
Though it may take a good while, recovery will eventually come.
It may not feel like it, but we all have a choice in how we respond. We get to choose whether we remain positive and hopeful about our future prospects – however unclear they may be at this moment.
Or we can choose to define ourselves as victim and make everything harder with our own negative thoughts. No one has the answers right now but negativity - 100% - can’t help.
“Of all the belief systems that have crippled my existence, the belief that I was a victim was the most debilitating one.” – Melody Beattie
Defining yourself as victim in any situation never helps. Over time, it can become an identity that can cloud everything in your life. Blaming others and external circumstances – even a pandemic, means handing over control of your life. It shifts your role from someone who is self-determining to a victim that life just happens to.
Regardless of what happened or didn’t happen, how we think and behave after the event is on us. We decide whether we will use it to our advantage or point to it as a reason for not getting it together.
People get back up despite horrendous circumstances every day and have forever.
Optimism is critical for rebounding
The thought being optimistic in the midst of this shit-storm probably makes you want to punch someone.
Optimism doesn’t mean denial. Let’s say it: this is a mess.
It means accepting circumstances while regarding them in the best possible way – if only because the alternative just makes it worse. We can’t afford any worse right now.
Being optimistic and hopeful requires that we see negative events in life as changeable, malleable. You have to believe this will end at some point. When it ends, there will be a climb but it’s critical that we believe we have power to affect change in our own lives for the better.
Research shows that thinking optimistically enables us to more effectively deal with difficulties.
Optimism and coping through difficult times
Among its long list of rewards, optimism has been shown to play a significant role in how well we cope with adversity in life.
Optimists tend to be less stressed and anxious and have better resilience and coping abilities. They tend to see setbacks as temporary and something to learn from; are more likely to problem-solve and take action; and focus on positive rather than negative aspects of obstacles.
Optimism feeds on itself and fuels our efforts, allowing us to persevere and not give up when times are tough. Conversely, the more negatively we respond to a crisis, the more inflexible and less resilient moving forward we become.
Optimism and our health
While probably harder than ever before, your outlook at this time is more important than ever.
Study after study has firmly established optimism’s role in healthier immune systems, and in helping people recover from illness and heal faster from surgery. Both men and women with greater optimism live longer than their pessimistic counterparts.
Optimism and success
As we navigate the unknown future ahead, our own levels of hope and optimism can be our greatest advantage. Being optimistic plays a great role in both academic and professional achievement.
Optimism, like our self-confidence, is fueled when we believe ourselves capable and worthy of success.
Confidence in ourselves and in the future leads to the energy, motivation and the most importantly, the action necessary to accomplish our goals. It allows us to take action where others will not and see opportunities where others cannot.
Regardless of our natural disposition, optimism is a habit that we can train our brains.
As we wait-out the pandemic and prepare for the future, it might help to know that people who exercise regularly and those who spend less time in front of a screen are more optimistic than their less-active or show-bingeing counterparts. Just sayin’.
Having a long-term view also helps keep things in perspective. What seems suffocating in this moment could bring something new, unexpected and positive later on.
The fresh-start effect
The entire world has been given a time-out. Everything’s on hold.
There’s an offering in all this: social scientists call it the fresh-start effect.
A blank slate can serve to motivate and promote achievement. Especially valuable for people previously unsuccessful, the idea of a fresh-start disconnected to past performance is freeing, encouraging.
No matter what happened during regulation, or pre-pandemic, overtime is a new game. Score 0.
A fresh-start also offers opportunities to restructure, realign and reinvent. This a rare and (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shift in many areas of life: from how we manage our money, to re-thinking the person we’ve been holed up with, to even a new career. If rebuilding anyway, maybe build something new.
Of course, improvements in these areas require a shift in habits and a shift in thinking and serious self-motivation. A clean slate is helpful but we all know that it takes way more than a flip of the calendar to miraculously improve our career prospects, our body or relationship or finances.
With all our choices, big and small, come consequences. When we can own it all, our successes and our failures, we become empowered to solve problems, make key decisions and take action to direct our life.
This global pandemic showed us clearly that our days are numbered. What do you want to be spending the reminder of yours doing?
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