Do you know anyone who is “happy go lucky”? Always sees the silver lining in any situation? Seems like a born optimist?
Well it turns out that being an optimist or a pessimist isn’t just down to our genes, but is in fact a learned behaviour. Optimism or pessimism can become ingrained into our thought processes over a period of time.
For example at work, we’re often rewarded for spotting and solving problems, or managing stressful situations. These are really valuable skills, but if we are constantly watching out for problems, then we can become blinded to the things which could actually make us happy or bring us more success.
Basically, the more we focus on something, the more likely we are to notice is everywhere.
One famous experiment which demonstrates this was carried out by psychologists Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris. Have a watch…
Did you spot the gorilla??? I certainly didn't the first time around! It just goes to show how easily we can become 'blinded' to obvious things unless we intentionally look for them.
So what can you do if you’re naturally a pessimist?
Well it is completely possible to ‘train your brain’ to overcome its own negativity bias (which we’re all hardwired to have), and tell it to ‘hunt for the good stuff’.
And there are plenty of benefits to this approach. Optimists tend to spot more opportunities and make the most of them. They also set more ambitious goals and put more effort into reaching those goals.
They are able to stay engaged with the process if things get tricky, and can bounce back quicker if it don’t go to plan. They can also cope better with periods of stress or change, such as a heavy workload or a restructure.
One popular 'brain training' tool for optimism is to start a gratitude journal, where you take time each day to notice and write down ‘3 good things’ from your day.
Or if you want to feel more optimistic about work, then one fun exercise is to team up with a friend and pretend that they want to apply for your job. Think of 3 appealing aspects of your role and give them a verbal job description highlighting those things.
I do this exercise in my corporate workshops and participants often say that they get a long lasting ‘feel good’ factor after actively remembering the perks of their jobs.
Go on, give it a try and email me to share how you get on!