Optimism is a “must-have” for leaders because it shows commitment and a willingness to keep working towards a goal. Optimistic leaders find it easier to gather support from others and ask for help when needed. It is one of the most contagious traits- if you are upbeat and hopeful for the future, you are sure to inspire others to feel the same.
Optimism is also associated with resilience and people with high levels of optimism experience less stress, burnout and fatigue than those who have lower optimism scores.
Optimism enables Gratitude
I’ve written extensively on the need to practice gratitude. In my book Just Rock It!, I described a study in which students were divided into three groups. The first group wrote about things they were grateful for during the week. A second group wrote about things that irritated them. The third group wrote about events that affected them (both positive and negative). After ten weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic, felt better and were healthier. When you are grateful for what you have, you feel better about where you are going.
“If you are pained by any external thing, it is not this thing that disturbs you, but your own judgment about it. And it is in your power to wipe out this judgment now.” — Marcus Aurelius
The Optimism vs Stoicism Paradox
One of the key ideas underpinning stoicism is the acceptance of the inevitability of challenges and difficulty. Optimism is about always hoping for the best. These two concepts seem contradictory; however, there is a way we can bring the ideas together. Stoic optimism is the term used to describe the process of using a problem or challenge to practice acceptance, live with determination and take control of unhelpful thoughts and beliefs.
“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more in imagination than in reality.” – Seneca
Preparing for the Worst but hoping for the Best
To practice the art of stoic optimism, you need to marry up these two ideas in your mind. First, you must be prepared for the fact that you are likely to be faced with challenges and hardships on your leadership journey. Then recognise that none of these ‘worst case scenario’ situations may arise at all, and in fact, something even better than you could have imagined may occur. It’s a case of being confident in your ability to deal with whatever you encounter on your leadership journey.
You got this….