“I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.” – Winston Churchill
My wife, the lovely Dizzy D, claims I live in “La-la Land.” What she means is that I “suffer” from eternal optimism. She is absolutely right. I almost always look for the upside in situations and the best in people. It rarely dawns on me that people might be telling me lies or are approaching their relationship with me in such a way that they might take advantage of me. Has this ever lead to me getting hurt? Sure. But it happens a lot less than you might think.
I think that my optimism is based on reality, not just pie-in-the-sky thinking or my “La-la Land” address. By setting Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG), it pushes my team and me to stretch to heights that we wouldn’t even attempt if we settled for safe goals. My hope is that you won’t allow conventional thinking or safe goals to cloud your creativity and sense of adventure.
Listen, I’m not talking about being Pollyannaish. Stuff (or some other word that starts with s) happens to me too. Things get in my way. People leave my team. The Universe rarely aligns fully with my goals and plans. There are always competing (and worthy) priorities that almost demand to be fulfilled. But what I have found is, when I maintain contagious and courageous optimism:
- Opportunities seem to appear out of thin air.
- People desire to join my team.
- Resources make themselves available.
- The size of the obstacles seems to shrink.
- I’m much more focused and productive.
So how do you stay optimistic in a very negative world? Here are the things that seem to work for me. I think they can work for you too:
Tim’s 7 Tips for Staying Positive in a Negative World.
- Avoid the gossip and negative people. – Both in your office and in your personal life. This should almost go without saying. There is an old expression that says, “If you roll around with pigs, you can’t help but get dirty.” Don’t think your optimism can lift them out of their negative worldview. It is much more likely that they will infect yours. I learned long ago that if someone comes to me complaining about a co-worker or supervisor, they rarely want my advice. They just want to complain. So now I listen for a moment or two and then say, “It sounds like you really have a challenge there. Why don’t I go with you right now to talk to him/her and see how we can resolve this?” As I mentioned earlier they usually don’t want to resolve the issue, they just want to complain. By my offering to help them resolve issues, they quickly stop coming to me with their gossip and complaints. In the rare occasion where they take me up on my offer, I have done something to help everyone! That’s about as win/win as it’s ever going to get.
- Avoid the news. – Trust me, you are still going to know what is going on in the world. As I write this, officials are still trying to figure out what has become of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. You would almost have to be in a coma to have missed this tragic event. I get the overall gist of the situation, but I haven’t spent 10 minutes reading about it or watching the coverage on TV. I’m not trying to minimize the tragedy for the families involved. If I had a loved one on that plane, I’m sure the coverage would consume me. What I am trying to do is minimize the effect that this kind of news could have on me. Every restaurant/bar I go into has CNN or CNBC running non-stop “coverage” on this event. The challenge is that there is nothing new to report, but that doesn’t stop the pundits speculating about it 24/7. I could list dozens and dozens of stories that have consumed the cable news networks over the last few years. Stories like Jody Arias, the Royal Wedding between Kate and William, and the George Zimmerman trial. Ask yourself the next time you get sucked up into a news story like these, “How is this going to help me hit my goals and get where I want to get in my life?” If the answer is clear that it isn’t going to help, STOP WATCHING!!!
- Break your goals down. – Sometimes looking at your BHAGs can be overwhelming. In fact, I’d argue that if your goals aren’t overwhelming, you didn’t set aggressive of enough goals. But when I get overwhelmed, it helps me dramatically to break my goals down into bite-sized goals and action steps. My assistant recently had to enter all the action steps from my 2014 business plan into our company’s Sharepoint system. (As a side-note, if you don’t know what Sharepoint is, go tell your supervisor that you love him or her and thank them for not forcing you to use this Microsoft resource.) What we realized is that the BHAGs that we had set for 2014 could be broken down into 89 different projects. Each project was then further broken down into multiple action items and steps that could be placed into my calendar or delegated to the members of my executive team. There is great peace and calm in knowing that we have the plans and horsepower to hit our goals.
- Be grateful. – I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this one. If you can’t find things in your life to be thankful for, you aren’t looking very hard! The fact that you can read this separates you from 775 million adults in the world who are illiterate. The fact that you are probably reading it on your smartphone, tablet or laptop…..well, you get the idea. Your life may not be where you want it….YET! But I promise you, most of the rest of the world would happily trade places with you, sight unseen, TODAY!
- Read uplifting articles, blogs and books. – I love biographies of famous leaders. I have yet to read a biography of a great leader that follows this plot: They were born into ideal circumstances, attended the best schools, had no adversity, and then were given great authority and honor. Instead, most great men and women I have read about suffered great tragedy and setback. Yet they were resilient and found a way to persevere in spite of their challenges. This should give you great hope. If Nelson Mandela can be unjustly imprisoned for 27 years and still change the world, what can you do from your current challenges? The world is counting on you to make a difference too!
- Hang out with like-minded people. – Why allow yourself to get bogged down by the whiners when there are lots of people like me living in “La-la Land?” People that are truly optimistic leaders who see the glass ¾ full most of the time. We love helping new leaders and those leaders that are struggling in their journey. Because of our optimism, we are crazy enough to think we can make a difference in their life and thus improve our own.
- Listen to great speakers. – I have invested more money than I would really like to count into tapes, CDs, DVDs, audio downloads, etc. If I am having a down day, all I have to do is listen to one of my favorites: Zig Ziglar, Jim Rhon, Tony Robbins, Les Brown, Brian Tracy, or John Maxwell. If the following quotes don’t light your fire, your wood is wet. If you think reading them is powerful, listening to them will change your life!
- “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar
- “Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better.” – Jim Rhon
- “People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals – that is, goals that do not inspire them.” – Tony Robbins
- “When life knocks you down, try to land on your back. Because if you can look up, you can get up.” – Les Brown
- “Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’” – Brian Tracy
- “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Dr. John C. Maxwell
Come join us over here in “La-la Land”! The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and all is right with the world!!! (And if it isn’t, don’t bother letting us know. We are working our tails off to make our vision a reality. Trust me, the world is counting on us!)
Conclusion: Life is hard. Wear a helmet. Mine is made of optimism!
Question: Did you roll out of bed to massive problems this morning, or to massive opportunities? I’m positive that your answer will determine your destiny.