If you take 1000 people who experienced the same difficult life event, chances are that 100 of those people are doing surprisingly well. Optimism and a growth mindset are not about denying that difficult things happen. It’s about asking what those 100 people are doing differently so they can flourish, despite what is happening. You can apply this logic to everything by asking yourself: what would it look like to grow in this situation? What can I let go of and what could I double-down on to make things better? We all have the right to stay within the confines of misery that is familiar to us. Sometimes that’s even comforting. However an optimist believes that with some effort, things can be better than that. And that’s worth trying something new.
Did you ever catch yourself thinking that an optimistic person is annoying? Today I’d like to challenge that belief. Maybe what is annoying is the sense that these people are not authentic. So ask yourself this question: is it impossible to generally expect good things but still be truthful? Not such a huge contradiction, right? For now, whenever you find yourself thinking that someone happy is annoying, get curious: what kind of thoughts are you thinking? Are these thoughts one hundred percent true? You might discover, that it’s not the other person that is annoying.
Today I want you to think about something that is truly sparse and yet we squander it all the time. What if you would save your attention as diligently as you save your money? Most of us don’t spend on every little impulse we have. We know that the dollars are finite. Yet actually, at least in theory, there is no limit to how much money a person can make. However no matter what they do, even billionaires can’t increase the attention they have to give. All they and we can do is to make better decisions about how we spend this attention. What you focus on influences hugely what you think about everything. Act accordingly this week.
The researcher Matthew Smith suggested that you should go luck yourself. It means that you should start seeing yourself as a lucky person. Imagine you are walking along a road and you find twenty bucks on the floor. This is what happened to some of the study participant in an interesting experiment. However only the people who saw themselves as lucky found the money. Their brain was expecting good things so it picked up on the money whereas the pessimists rushed past the money and never found it. Optimists don’t necessarily have more opportunities, they just seize them. So go luck yourself today!
Research shows that a huge majority of the things we worry about never turn out as bad as we think it will. We are not only wasting mental energy, we are not putting it where we could get more bang for our buck. Today I would like to suggest, that you consider adopting a generalized optimistic mindset. That means that unless you have evidence that contradicts an optimistic interpretation of events, you assume that people do their best. Mistakes happen to everyone and fretting usually doesn’t help solve the problem. Your doubts and pessimism don’t have to be banned but instead applied selectively: when you are in actual physical or psychological danger it is crucial to respect your fears and even your anger. They might be pointing at something that is actually wrong. However if you take this challenge, you will not just let negativity pass through your brain unquestioned and unfiltered. Even if it has a purpose we can often think of different ways to express and act on these things. Doing this helps us reap the benefits of a realistic optimism without falling prey to real danger.
Fantasizing about our best self can help us take a step back, connect with our potential and draw from that inspiration. Going even more specific helps us to liberate thoughts we might not otherwise have. When you think about your most important relationships what kind of person do you want to be ? What kind of friend, partner or work colleague would you be if you were able to express the best in you? Today you don’t have to think about how to make that vision real. Today is reserved for unadulterated day-dreaming with a little exaggeration cherry on the top. You could write it down or ask Alexa to keep a list about this. Have fun.
Tomorrow we will recap the whole relationship week.
Other people can be a quick-fix to happiness: they can make us laugh, feel safe and if we’re lucky even ecstatic. All of these things are wonderful but they bear a dangerous seed: that we use other people as an easy way out. When someone makes us happy we might not feel a deep need to learn happiness habits such as meditating, getting enough fresh air or learning new things to keep growing. One person can replace all of those things and that usually does not stay that way forever. Once things fade a little bit and our happiness levels go down it’s very tempting to blame the other person. If they behaved differently we would still be perfectly happy. Except it’s not really fair towards them. People making us happy is a bonus. When we take the responsibility for our own happiness and see everything that comes from others as a wonderful encore we take a huge burden out of our relationships. Nobody can do this 100% of the time. But we can try to get better at it.
If you have another few minutes to invest in your happiness skills why not check-out the Positive Psychology Podcast? Just say “Play the Positive Psychology Podcast”