I want you to imagine you are a 24-year-old graduate applying for jobs. In one instance, you are successful in an interview with a multinational and proceed to the next stage of your application: a range of psychometric assessments followed by an interview with a psychologist.
Now imagine, if you will, that this psychologist says you are ‘’too optimistic, that you are a ‘’Pollyanna’’, that ‘’you are unrealistic in seeing the world in such as positive light’’, and insinuates there is something really wrong with you.
How would you feel?
Well, when this happened to me back in the mid-1980s, I was shocked. My sunny, optimistic disposition was deemed a fatal career flaw by this psychologist. What? Initially, I was really upset by his analysis. Why was optimism a problem? What was wrong with me? But then I thought ‘stuff you, you’re not going to get the better of me, I will carry on being optimistic about the future and find a better pathway for my career’ and the rest is history.
Thirty years on and thanks to ongoing research, we now know a lot more about the power of optimism and its effects on people, teams, businesses and societies.
Some advantages of optimism
- Optimists are more likely to be innovators because 85% of optimists, compared to 26% of pessimists, approach a problem by looking at it from different angles.
- Approximately 69% of optimists are able to find the good in even the most disagreeable of people, compared to only 19% of pessimists.
- The link between optimism and longevity is strong.
- An optimistic spouse (or partner) is better for your health.
- Optimists are more likely to eat a healthy diet, have a healthy body mass index, not smoke, and exercise regularly than their pessimistic counterparts.
- Optimists start more businesses because they see opportunity where others see uncertainty and despair.
- Optimists usually make better leaders because they are often inspiring communicators, show a pathway forward to the future, see the bigger picture and elicit human effort.
- Optimists are usually able to keep things in perspective and limit unnecessary catastrophising.
Some disadvantages of pessimism
We also know a lot more about the serious impacts of negativity. In his most recent book, Enlightenment Now, the Canadian-American cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker cites that in the 1970s the news media published a 50-50 ratio of positive news stories to negative ones. This is in stark comparison to today, where the 24/7 news cycle sees negative stories dominate upwards of 80% of airtime. There is no doubt that growingly pervasive negativity is really bringing people down.
Dave Hollis, who just retired from the position of distribution head at Disney Studios, says that “people are hungry for stories about #optimism and hope.”
So where are these stories in our daily lives and in our businesses?
I don’t know about you, but my team and I, together with Victor Perton, want to see more optimism in Australian businesses, in the media and in our daily lives.
We’ve become frustrated and rather annoyed at the constant bombardment of negative media news cycle. We are tired of the over-emphasis on risk and cost management in business. We don’t want to see progressed stalled because fear and uncertainty are taking the lead in our daily lives.
I don’t want that psychologist who disparaged my sunny, optimistic disposition — and all the others like him — to win.
There are so many good news stories, great opportunities, ideas and initiatives out there that often go unrecognised — so we have decided to take decisive action.
We are now encouraging people to limit their news media diet. We are also governed by a new saying: “Watch who you let near your mind.” Otherwise, if we are not careful, we run the risk of shutting down and closing ourselves off to opportunity, which can lead to a sort of ‘Dark Ages’ — and who wants to go back there?
We understand that humans naturally tend towards risk aversion, but if create the space to consider what is possible, explore every opportunity, go beyond our traditional boundaries and look at what we can do, positive things will happen.
Purposeful optimism and opportunity
It all starts with opportunity. Opportunity makes it possible to do good things. Optimism is ignited when real opportunities for growth and prosperity become clear to us. Different from blind optimism, purposeful optimism is built on substance, derived from strategy and underpinned by well-resourced people who are enabled to pursue opportunity and do something meaningful with others. Optimism keeps the light of opportunity glowing even when the world seems dark.
Take a second to stop and think about it. How differently would businesses operate if they were powered by purposeful optimism and opportunity?
Please share this article with anyone looking to build positive and optimistic business cultures, enhance customer loyalty, grow sales, deliver great customer service and sell better. It could be with your team and colleagues, business partners, friends, clients, suppliers or people you know in your community or business networks.
Remember everybody lives by selling something.
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