Cultivating optimism

Emotional Intelligence, Mental Fitness

Optimism is a vital part of our Mental Fitness. In the words of a recent academic study:  

“Optimism may significantly influence mental and physical well-being by the promotion of a healthy lifestyle as well as by adaptive behaviours and cognitive responses, associated with greater flexibility, problem-solving capacity and a more efficient elaboration of negative information.”

It makes us healthier, helps us adapt and is a key element in our resilience and performance. 

So how do we get more of it? How can we cultivate our optimism? 

The best teacher to turn to is the wonderful Martin Seligman and his classic book ‘Learned Optimism.’ He shows how, rather than being something we are born with, or is innate, optimism is something we can learn. And something that we can practice and get better at every single day, simply by using his ‘Dispute and Energize’ approach every time we encounter some kind of adversity or frustration as a way of reframing situations (and eventually rewiring ourselves so we become more optimistic all the time). 

And it’s as simple as the first 5 letters of the alphabet.

Our instinctive response
Our instinctive response
Our reframed response
Our reframed response
Our reframed response
A is for Adversity
B is for Belief
C is for Consequence
D is for Disputation
E is for Energization
We encounter an adversity in our daily life
We have an initial thought or response about what that means or why it happened
We respond emotionally
We challenge our own beliefs and think of new ways to reframe them
We turn what we’ve learned from the experience into energy and positivity.
I didn’t get that job we applied for
It’s because I wasn’t good enough or I was rubbish in the interview
I feel down and lose confidence
That job wasn’t the right fit for me and they needed someone with different skills. I wouldn’t have thrived there anyway. I learned about what I really want to be doing from the process
I’m really looking forward to seeing what else comes along and finding the role that’s right for me.

The bigger or more sustained the adversity is the harder it can be to use disputation to reframe things. Sometimes it takes longer. Sometimes it requires us to draw on our relationships to help us with the disputation. If we do manage to then that can mean that the energisation that comes from being able to is consequently larger as well. The important thing is that we begin to learn to use our ‘D’ stage and see adversity as an opportunity to learn optimism. This is where coaching excellence has a transformative role to play (whether  via 1:1s, group sessions or development workshops) to foster optimism by enabling insight, empowerment and action. 

Want to take this further?

Do you want to gain insight into personal transformation? Do you want to learn how your own Mental Fitness can be the framework for understanding how you can develop greater self-awareness and grow in your own capability and resilience?

Or, if you play a role in your organisation’s development and that of those who work with you and their Mental Fitness, we’d love to talk.


by | 4 Nov 2022

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