Ah, optimism -- that sunny, glass-always-half-full mindset of the perpetually cheery. It may seem impossibly out of reach when things aren't going your way, but take heart. It turns out that not only can you teach yourself to be more hopeful, but doing so may work wonders for both your health and your business.
Let's take a look at five of the top benefits entrepreneurs and solopreneurs can hope to gain from becoming more optimistic -- and give you five tips to get there if you're not a born optimist.
Longer lives and better health
From a health perspective, having a positive attitude and outlook on life seems to be, if not quite a silver bullet, something close to it. Along with reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke, being an optimistic person is generally associated with better cardiovascular health.
It's not just conjecture, either. "More than five decades of research have found that optimism is a potent health tonic," writes Utpal Dholakia in Psychology Today. "Optimistic people remain healthier and live longer. They have ... stronger immune function, and lower levels of stress and pain. And healthy people who are optimistic report feeling better than equally healthy people who are pessimistic." One study "found that people who had higher levels of optimism had a longer life span," according to David R. Topor, writing in the Harvard Health Blog. "They also had a greater chance of living past age 85."
Takeaway tip: If natural optimism just isn't you, start small. Set achievable, realistic goals for yourself each day and focus on reaching them. (A to-do list with items you can physically check off can boost your productivity, too.) "Research suggests that setting goals and having the confidence to achieve these goals is related to optimism," Topor writes.
Positive thinking can help you generate more income, too. In a study, "researchers found that entrepreneurs’ optimism was associated with a greater increase in their company’s profits a year later," according to Dholakia, writing in another piece for Psychology Today.
In a different study, by Business Insider contributor and author Thomas C. Corley, "67 percent of the self-made millionaires [polled] said that their optimism was critical to their success in life. Conversely, 78 percent of the poor ... admitted to being pessimists. Granted, cynicism and pessimism aren't quite the same, but they have one major factor in common: negativity. Cynics don’t like working with others, don’t trust others and, as a result, they are left without any team to help them pull the cart. They prefer to go it alone. If you’re a cynic, you are sabotaging your life, financially. You are pushing the very people you need away and are left with no choice but to rely on yourself. Cynicism is a recipe for failure."
Takeaway tip: Another easy move you can make toward an optimistic outlook: Focus on solutions, not problems. "Any time you catch yourself focusing on a problem or self-doubt, ask yourself: 'What is the one thing I can do differently that could make this situation better?'" Jason Selk, a mental coach and author, suggests in an Inc. piece.
Those who see things in a positive light bounce back more quickly when things go sideways, too. "Optimistic entrepreneurs are resilient in two significant ways," Dholakia writes. "First, they are emotionally more resilient. Where failure normally produces ruminative thoughts about how and why it happened, and what could have been done to avoid it, optimists don’t fall into this trap. Instead, they focus on the task of moving on and starting their next venture. The second type of resilience is cognitive. Thinking positively encourages optimistic people to think more broadly, which in turn allows them to be flexible and open to new ideas." Put another way: "[O]ptimists succeed four to five times more than pessimists, because they keep trying," J.D. Meier writes in a piece on resilience for Time.com.
Takeaway tip: To become more naturally optimistic, try visualizing your success. Put aside half a minute each day to daydream about what attaining your business goals looks like to you, and be as detailed and specific as possible. Believe it or not, this exercise increases the likelihood of attaining your goals.
Optimists are more likely than their pessimistic counterparts to go out and make things happen rather than wait for things to happen to them. They, in a word, hustle. "True hustlers never find the time to complain," marketing expert John W. Hayes writes. "When things don’t go quite their way, they dust themselves down and just get on with the job, often finding success in the opportunities created when one door is closed and another is opened."
Takeaway tip: A move you can take to attain natural-optimist status: Allow yourself to bask in the glow of your own good work. When you've achieved a win, stop and recognize it for a few seconds (or even a full minute). Doing this "reinforces optimism on a daily basis," Selk says.
Those who think optimistically are more likely to generate new, ever-better ideas and act resourcefully to find solutions to their challenges. "Optimists are more creative and innovative, more motivated and more satisfied with their work," author Alexander Hiam writes in "Business Innovation for Dummies."
Takeaway tip: Call to mind a past mentor, a role model, or an individual you admire and ask yourself what they might advise you to do about a particular problem or issue. This exercise will make you feel cheered on, which will, in turn, help motivate you to solve your dilemma.
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