How to think optimistically about the future

In today’s challenging business environment it is quite easy to be a pessimist or, as some of my clients would say, being a “realist”.

When someone is a claiming to be a realist, decisions are often made considering only one factor: risk.  

Faced with a decision, they ask themselves questions such as: 

  • What is the worst possible outcome? 
  • What do I need to limit my downside? 
  • If this doesn’t go as planned, how will I respond? 

However, when we only consider risk we also create limitations and barriers to what is possible. More importantly, we don’t ask the most important question of any decision: What is possible? 

Would SpaceX have been built if Elon Musk had only considered risks?

Would the Ipod have been developed if risk was Steve Jobs’ only consideration? 

Would Thomas Edison have made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at creating the light bulb. if risk was his only consideration? 

Although you may not have ambitions to be the next Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, the reality is that focusing on what might happen, rather than what’s possible, limits our outcomes. 

The shift from a “realist” to “optimist” comes from practicing what I refer to as “mindset flip”. These are the four steps that move us towards an optimistic view.

  1. Flip negative thoughts

If you find yourself considering risks, flip the question to something positive. For example, “What’s the worst that can happen?” becomes, “What are the best possible outcomes?” 

2. Share an optimistic view 

If you are pessimistic, your biggest critic will be yourself. For this reason, make sure you share your optimistic initial ideas out loud with others. When we repeat things out loud, we override any negative thoughts.  

3. Challenge the realists

It’s very hard  to be optimistic if you are surrounded by pessimistic people. If you can’t eliminate these people from your life, push back. When someone shares a pessimistic view, get in the habit of challenging their viewpoint. Don’t worry whether you have the answer; just simply share an opposing positive view.  

4. Spend time in positive environments

Like step 3 above, although we can’t always control the people we are around, we can control what we consume. Be aware of what you read, where you travel, or who you choose to spend time with. If we consume negative news or information or spend time with negative people, we in turn will be negative. 

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