Optimism seems like a simple concept. Just look in the bright side, right? Simple is not easy when established habits and natural strengths pull you out of balance.
I have natural, foundational strengths. I have an uncanny sense of time and a well developed ability to create and implement contingency plans. Both of these natural skills have served me well in my professional life and side projects. But my natural ability to see landmines and potential problems tends to overwrite my ability to be an optimist. See my first post in our optimism series: I suck at optimism.
Being over indexed on a certain skill (that can preclude other skills from developing is) like having a dominant hand – most of the population is right handed. Some people are left handed. A few are naturally ambidextrous. I injured my wrist in college and had to learn to write with my left hand. My wrist eventually healed, but the skill of writing with my left hand remained. I’m ambidextrous by practice.
So why learn the skill of optimism if I got along just fine without for the first several decades of my life? Because optimism is worth it. Optimists tend to have more fulfilling relationships, be more ego resilient and more fulfilling careers. According to this Forbes article, optimism reduces the bad stuff and elevates the good stuff. And to tie back to our Agile Best Self principles, being an optimist is more energizing than the exhaustive work of always focusing on what could go wrong.
Agile Best Self Principle #10: Simplicity – focusing on what energizes your best self — is paramount.
Here is an example. I’m willing to learn a new skill, but I’m not a natural morning person. To be optimistic in the morning, I need energy from an external source. Music literally gives me the energy to get out of bed in the morning. Music energizes me so that I have some forward momentum.
To get back to the rocks, in order to stay in balance, I need something to counteract the force of my regular habits. The big rock at the base of it all is Agile Best Self. The rock on top of that is sleep. The rock on top of that is music, the rock on top of that is intention. Ultimately, that tiny rock at the top is the new skill I’m trying to build: optimism. By the end of the day, my tiny pebble of optimism is perched pretty precariously on top of all the other rocks. The good news is that I can start again tomorrow, with the benefit of learnings from today.
Tomorrow I will be better at starting out strong and optimistic. And the simple will hopefully become a little easier.
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