Why Optimism Is Such a Key Ingredient of Success

“Rather than giving up and walking away from difficult situations, optimists attack problems head-on.”

ESB Professional / Shutterstock
ESB Professional / Shutterstock

In the book Darwin’s Pharmacy, author Rich Doyle talks about finding ways to become aware of the feedback loops among our creative, linguistic, consciousness, experience choices. In other words, our capacity that we have to mold our lives. A lot of people go through life thinking that they have no control over what happens, that life just happens to them. That’s not true! We have a lot more control than we think, and this control I’m talking about comes from the power of feedback loops. You can decide how your day is going to go by meeting with a friend, going to your favorite restaurant, listening to your favorite music, and drinking a certain beverage. Again, you can decide to be optimistic and look for the best possible experience. Once you recognize this power of feedback loops, you can create the intention of being optimistic.

Self-awareness in our lives brings us, as gimmicky as it may sound, life-changing benefits. The free will that we possess to decide and execute the ideas and experiences we want to have is a source of true happiness and therefore optimism. Psychologist and author Martin Seligman says the key to optimism lies, as he says, in our “explanatory styles,” how we describe life events to ourselves. Seligman believes that anyone can learn optimism, as I said, simply by asking themselves more questions before automatically defaulting into a negative response. 

I couldn’t agree more with Seligman, but the amount of effort this takes is HUGE. We’re just used to falling into a negative reaction. We do it all the time. Pessimism is for lazy people; it’s our default reaction, while optimism takes effort and commitment. 

Dreams + Reality + Determination + Optimism = Success 

A little while ago, I read a book by Ray Dalio called Principles. In this New York Times bestseller, Dalio shares the story of his life, and how he came up with his principles that are, as he says, the main cause of his success. I enjoyed every word of this book, mostly because he is the founder of Bridgewater Associates, which is the largest hedge fund in the world. I love investing and the stock market, so reading how he started, his journey, how he founded his company. By the way, his thought-process to investing was incredible. 

One of the topics that resonated with me the most was one of his life principles. “Dreams + Reality + Determination = Successful Life.” Dalio writes that this formula is almost always true. But he forgot a variable: optimism. If you want this formula to work not almost always but always, optimism can’t be left out. 

If you are a dreamer, you are realistic, you are determined, and most importantly you are optimistic. Success will just be a result of your actions. Importantly, optimism is not about being positive as much as it is about being determined and enthusiastic. Suzanne C. Segerstrom in her book Breaking Murphy’s Law outlines what she and other researchers have found: rather than giving up and walking away from difficult situations, optimists attack problems head-on. They plan a course of action, seek out advice from others, and stay focused on solutions.

Excerpt from Generation Optimism: How To Create The Next Generation of Doers and Dreamers © 2019 Juan David Campolargo

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