Intelligent Optimism Wins In Today's World
Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE
The reality of today's world seems to leave little room for
optimism. Almost every news story can lead because it does
bleed. We hear of critical food shortages in Africa, daily
gang deaths on city streets, the profiteering from child pornography,
and the climatic disasters prompted by global warming. Health
care costs move up faster than a hummingbird in flight and
more children now spout profanities as a regular part of speech.
With such negativity, no wonder a 2004 U.S. government survey
found that depression afflicts one in 10 adults 14 days a
month or more.
You probably get depressed just reading the opening paragraph.
But wait! There is hope. Not the cock-eyed optimism that became
fodder for a song from the musical South Pacific, but rather
what psychologists in France are calling "intelligent optimism."
Such optimism does not deny the reality of today's world,
but rather seeks to LEARN how to fashion a life amid such
difficulties. Martin Seligman, the psychologist who had made
optimism and happiness his life's work, would agree with the
French: optimism can be taught.
Consider these basic steps:
(1) Focus on what you can control. Don't get carried away
by circumstances you cannot change. You might not change global
warming but you can control your energy consumption. You can't
stop the downsizing in your company but you can arm yourself
with marketable skills.
(2) Reframe the event so that you are not a victim. There
is always another way to view a situation. The flight cancellation
that caused me to miss (and forfeit) a major engagement was
not "planned" to "get" me. It just was. My choice is to figure
out what I can do to help the current client and what I will
put in the place of the cancelled work.
(3) Think "enough". When we concentrate on what we don't have,
we miss all the many things we do have. The truth of the matter
is that if you are reading this article, you do have enough
computer power. You do have enough intelligence. You do have
(4) Cultivate optimistic responses. Like a farmer tending
a field, optimism will never grow unless it is watered, fed,
weeded and nourished. We all have days in which negativity
can take over. And, sometimes, that is a WISE response because
it keeps us grounded in reality. Just make sure it is reality
and not the imagination making extraordinary leaps into conjecture.
Weed out that conjecture. Ask what you can DO to see a result
that gives you a sense of power. If we don't cultivate such
intelligent optimism, be aware of reality and willing to find
options, then we might do what Alexander Graham Bell warned.
"Stare so long at the closed door we fail to see the one that
(5) Remember the power of generations. Children of depressed
parents are more prone to depression. Children of optimists
are more prone to be optimists. What do you choose to pass
along? Even if your parents were negative, you can break the
cycle with stopping, freeze-framing a situation, listening
to the negative self talk, and then literally giving yourself
a different message. Yes, this takes practice but you can
make it a habit if you work it over time.
Ultimately, intelligent optimists understand that change and
chaos are given. They know that "this too shall pass". In
the meantime, they CHOOSE to take whatever action they can
within their own sphere of influence and then settle back.
It is enough.
© 2005, McDargh Communications. Publication rights granted
to all venues so long as article and by-line are reprinted
intact and all links are made live.
Named by Executive Excellence Magazine as one of the top
100 thought leaders in business, Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE
authored one of the first books on work/life balance. Numerous
books and articles later, Eileen serves the meetings industry
as a popular international keynoter and on the Board of Directors
of the National Speakers Association. You can find products
and services offered by Eileen at www.EileenMcDargh.com
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