It’s widely acknowledged that 2020 wasn’t the easiest of years, and this one mightn’t be a lot different. But there’s plenty we can do to make the most of it.
Chances are there’ll be a level of uncertainty again, and we can respond with the predictable frustration, disappointment, boredom, and so on. Or we can anchor ourselves somewhere else.
In optimism, for example.
Optimism can seem pollyannaish or naïve. Where’s the silver lining in a global pandemic mixed with climatic disasters and often nerve-wracking world politics?
But optimism has featured in public conversations quite a bit lately.
For starters I’ve seen it identified as one of the most important career tools for 2021. It makes sense that in changing times, those who are willing to look at work alternatives will ride things out better.
But this attitude might be as useful to shaping lives as it is to careers.
Health research tells us that optimists recover better from surgery and have a lower risk of disease, though one wonders if perhaps it works the other way around and healthier people simply feel more chipper.
Or maybe optimism helps us deal with stress, which is often a factor underlying chronic disease.
You might have also read about Christiana Figueres’s take on optimism.
She’s the Costa Rican woman in her 60s who lead the Paris Agreement on climate change as part of her role with the UN. She’s since started a Global Optimism group for tackling social and environmental change. (PS. That’s not her in the photo. But you can google her.)
Figueres is the kind of woman who’s labelled ‘formidable’, and she subscribes to what she calls ‘stubborn optimism’, i.e. being resolute and determined about the future we want.
Optimism is the starting point, she says, not the end result.
Another argument she makes is that we’re all capable of more than we think.
And while we may not always get the future we want, it’s useful to remember that in the face of whatever 2021 unveils, we have a big say in our emotional response.
But what if you feel your glass is more often half-empty than half-full? Here are a few strategies to consider, and they’re not just for the pessimists.
First, notice the way you talk out loud and internally. It might be time to pull yourself up and start taking more responsibility for your language.
Second, Christiana Figueres says we default to doom and gloom when we don’t have a positive vision to look to.
So this year could provide an opportunity to create a future you’re inspired by. Spend a few minutes with pen and paper and imagine what you want for say, your relationships, your health, your home, and so on.
Third, consider learning something new that will either feel like an accomplishment or just be thoroughly enjoyable.
Fourth, manage your consumption of news and other input. While news is available 24/7, we don’t need to constantly tap into it. It also works to stick to trusted sources.
In the same vein, be intentional about what you watch and listen to generally. For example, you can choose to listen to music that’s uplifting.
And of course, stop doing things that chew up your time and leave you feeling empty. Like scrolling through 200 negative comments about something on social media.
Fifth, support yourself with positive routines and practices. If you’ve had practices in the past that worked for you, but you’ve forgotten about them or let them go, you might want to retrieve them.
Sixth, be mindful of who you spend time with. That’s not to say we should give the naysayers in our life a wide berth but be mindful of their viewpoint and don’t get drawn into it if you don’t want to.
And finally, when you have a case of the blahs, remember that you don’t have to stay in the mire.
Some people write or paint their way through it, some people walk or swim it out, and others talk it out. If you’re a talker, do it with a commitment to finding a resolution or at least acceptance, rather than just complaining.
It’s likely the year won’t entirely go our way. Few of them do. But by intentionally choosing optimism we can make the best of it. And probably be healthier as a result.
As Christiana Figueres asks, “Have you ever heard of anything that was achieved that started with defeatism?”
Photo Source: Bigstock