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Optimistic about optimism

Years of working with personality frameworks, thousands of hours spent in personality debriefs and in researching the relationship of personality and work - and I missed giving importance to optimism!

With so many heavy-weight personality factors that predict leadership, execution, relationships, change, and influence - the little factor of optimism ended up last in any awareness conversation.

2020 has changed the way I look at optimism and the role it plays in success 

As people strive to build new partnerships and walk into new avenues of work, optimism helps in

  1. Seeing possibilities rather than just obstacles

  2. Having the courage to walk into the unknown with a sense of hope rather than despair 

  3. Seeing failure as an opportunity 

  4. Remaining upbeat about opportunities when the 1st  stage has discouraging results

Optimism is not openness. Optimism is akin to hope while openness is akin to receptiveness . Optimism helped people tide along in 2020 . The optimistic saw opportunities where the walls closed in on us. It is a cognitive – emotional process that allows us to assume/anticipate the future and envision possibilities of survival in each scenario. It is core to the evolution of our species (Tiger 1979- Optimism: The Biology of Hope). Optimism is thus a key builder block for achievement, change, entrepreneurship and innovation.

Social learning theories firmly find optimism is a learnt response to situations that we acquire right from childhood. The association is hardened as we grow and it takes focused re-wiring to build it. Seligman (1991, 1995) and Vaughan (2000) offer a variety of strategies and programs which increase optimism. Seligman (1991) suggests documenting ABC’s of each event: Adversity, the Belief associated with it and the Consequences as a start. 

The risks of optimism ( like – have illusions of opportunities when there are none or remaining disconnected from reality or not feeling anxious in face of serious situations) do not outweigh its positives. It is important to build optimism in leaders so that they can inspire people to believe in possibilities.

Here is a simple and comprehensive research paper on optimism for those of you who want to know more about it.

(Freud and Tiger, both found DEEP correlation between optimism and religion as compared to correlation between optimism and science – I will leave you to explore this interesting angle through the write-up below).


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