Considerations on Optimism from a mentor of mine.
Today we are living in very challenging times. These times challenge our ability to positively cope and maintain hope. Highlighted by the recent events at Fort Hood, I have been especially concerned about the emotional well being of the members of our military, police officers, emergency/fire first responders, etc. You might have noted that the US Army announced in August that it will spend $117 million on “Emotional Resiliency Training”. Their resiliency training program is being adapted from the Positive Psychology Program at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The program, designed to help people cope better with stressful conditions, seeks to defuse or expose common habits of thinking and flawed beliefs that may develop into anger, frustration and a tendency to assume the worst.
In thinking about the emotional intelligence underpinnings of “emotional resiliency”, I would like to highlight Optimism. Optimism carries with it an element of positive expectation towards the future…hope…a positive self-fulfilling prophecy…which fuels a positive self efficacy. Optimism is the subscale of the EQ-i that carries with it the greatest degree of correlation with all other EQ-i subscales. Optimism could be considered a master trait for comprehensive emotional well being. Additionally, Optimism has a high degree of correlation with Stress Tolerance (.76) which suggests that Optimism is a significant factor in one’s ability to cope with stress. The difference between a pessimistic versus optimistic outlook towards the stressful situations we face often involves our own thoughts, beliefs, and self talk. The problem is that our own beliefs about our situation often are faulty, and not based in fact, which often creates fear. Remember the definition of F.E.A.R : False . Evidence . Appearing . Real. Much of human potential has been robbed by faulty beliefs about what is possible fueled by fear. With the seemingly constant flow of negative news, there is a battle being waged against people’s minds…driving self defeating, pessimistic, faulty beliefs…undermining hope…which undermines human potential and capability.
I encourage each of you to join me in helping in the battle being waged against people’s minds:
Be an encourager
Focus on the positive
Try project happiness and cheerfulness every day…happiness/optimism gives energy to others…pessimism takes energy
Cultivate a spirit of thankfulness…learn to be thankful in your own life and express thankfulness to others
Finally…lift others up. In extremely difficult times dealing with tragedy and the loss of life like was experienced at Fort Hood, I am often at a loss for what I can do for those affected. I have found that my simply saying to someone experiencing a crisis that my thoughts and prayers are with them and meaning it…seems to give them hope and encourage them. I have tried to dedicate myself to being an encourager and someone who lifts others up. I see people every day who need encouragement and lifting up. I am certainly not worthy of doing this, but maybe that is what it is all about. We are all fellow strugglers in this life…perhaps I might lend a hand to lift another up…but I need others to lift me up. I challenge you to find someone in your sphere of influence that is downtrodden…they are often the seemingly insignificant people that our society overlooks…the waitress…the janitor…the lawn worker, etc. Find out their name, compliment them on their work…lift them up…encourage them. Besides, you will benefit from it too…research has shown that people who help others are the most self actualized.