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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

the power of optimism

by Terry Paulson, PhD, CSP, CPAE

Today's winners in the game of life will be known for flexible optimism and resourcefulness in the face of adversity and constant change. Unfortunately, too many are falling victim to the depression of our age, learned helplessness... "Nothing I can do is going to make any difference in what happens to me, so why try?" Here are seven practical tips to help you claim your own optimism advantage:

1. Cultivate a continual sense of adventure that takes advantage of opportunities. Victors make the best of opportunities while victims whine about how few they have. Failure to make choices doesn't prevent failure it just turns life into slow death. Never be paralyzed by limitless choices; do something one choice at a time! As Yogi Berra would say, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

2. Build a history of lifelong learning instead of settling for obsolescence. You become an old dog when you stop doing new and improved tricks. Invest 5% of your time in education to stay a recyclable asset. If you hate your job, raise that to 10%. Search for what you enjoy and have the gifts to do. Optimism is easier when you have a job that gives you passion, fulfillment, and energy.

3. Manage your motivation by catching yourself being effective. You are probably tougher on yourself than on any other person. Instead of taking yourself for granted, love yourself the way you love others you care about. If you are not catching yourself being effective, you may be winning and not know it because you're not keeping score. Ask yourself daily, "What did I do today that made a difference?" Use your calendar to write down one success every day.

4. See mistakes as valued lessons on the way to success. Life is like a moving vehicle with no brakes; if you spend too much time in the rear view mirror, you may hit a tree out the front window. Keep your rear view mirror smaller than your front window by using self-criticism as course correction feedback on the road to success. Victims say, "I'll never be able to succeed." Optimists perceive failures as temporary setbacks, rather than final verdicts. Build an expectation of success through hard work.

5. Spend time with other optimistic friends. Mark Twain said it well: "Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great." The company you keep can bring you up or bring you down. Pick your friends and associates wisely.

6. Work your sense of humor. Don't go through your life with your face in "park." Humor provides perspective that breaks the stress cycle and invites a more positive attitude. If you know that some day you will laugh at a problem, don't wait—laugh as quickly as you can! Take your job and life seriously, but yourself lightly. Never forget that some days you're the bug, and some days you're the windshield. That's a perspective worth remembering in these challenging times.

7. Finally, experience the power of gratitude. Unrealistic expectations are a sure road to disappointment. Optimists hope for more, but are not thrown by less. Start counting your blessings instead of your problems. Choose to be happy unless something happens to change that instead of being unhappy until something makes you happy. Appreciate the words of Reinhold Niebuhr: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

BYLINE INFORMATION

Dr. Terry Paulson is author of The Dinner, 50 Tips for Speaking Like a Pro and They Shoot Managers Don't They? As a speaker, he helps leaders and teams make change work. For more information visit http://www.terrypaulson.com or contact directly at (818) 991-5110 or terry@terrypaulson.com

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