Optimism: Looking At Life Through “Living Coral”-Colored Glasses


As we approach the New Year, in challenging times, many of us are searching for ways to be more hopeful. That quest is even shared by the company that sets standards for the use of color. Pantone says its 2019 pick for color of the year — “Living Coral” — represents optimism.

I’ve worked hard in my own life to refocus attention and energy from worrying about how things might go wrong, to concentrating on what’s already working and what is still possible. The glass half-full approach isn’t always easy to sustain.

If you can’t imagine a positive outcome, how can you ever be motivated personally or inspire a team in business? People prone to pessimistic and even fatalistic outlooks are usually perceived – with good reason – to be self-defeating and unmotivated. And who wants to live or work with a perpetual buzzkill?

Optimists see temporary and specific reasons for things going badly. They tend to bounce back from failure. Pessimists believe that permanent and unchanging conditions are behind every misfortune. They often feel defined by their failures and are quick to quit trying.

Researchers have confirmed many benefits of optimism, including a correlation between optimism and academic achievement. A study of the Metropolitan Life sales force found that more optimistic sales people were significantly more successful than their less positive co-workers. And in most (though not all!) presidential races in the United States, the more optimistic candidate has been elected.

A hopeful outlook can also be beneficial for health, especially in older people. Optimists tend to have fewer illnesses, and recover more quickly than pessimists when they have health problems. Pessimists are more likely to be depressed, which some believe affects the immune system as well as have physical ailments.

It’s certainly possible to be overly or inappropriately optimistic. In psychology, believing in an outcome not justified by evidence or experience is defined as “magical thinking.” Believing that you’ll win a marathon without ever getting off the couch is an unlikely scenario at best and delusional at worst. Expecting to receive a raise or promotion without putting in the necessary work is similarly not a strategy for success.

Even Pollyanna didn’t completely ignore reality. She chose to focus on strengths. Moving towards a positive outcome takes effort, whether it’s in your personal or professional life. Strive to be realistically optimistic: practical, yet hopeful.

Here are some ways to become more optimistic:

  • Make a habit of giving thanks – for people, accomplishments, events. Create a gratitude journal by listing what you’re thankful for – no matter how small – on a daily basis. 

  • Ask others to help you reframe situations and options in a positive way.

  • Remember that the worst-case scenario is rarely what actually happens. 

What are some of the strategies you use to maintain an optimistic perspective?

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