Optimism is a Strategy to Fight Adversity

Optimism is a Strategy to Fight Adversity
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Today, the current environment is “pushing the edge” for so many. Having been forced to change everyday life due to a pandemic, we are now rebuilding. The world is ever shifting as many seek to hold an important conversation around social justice to being hijacked with senseless riots and destruction.  It can seem like an uphill battle toward meaningful change.   Optimism is a viable strategy to fight adversity.  

The critical issues within our society and our businesses are fluid and leaders need to be agile in how they think and act.  Being able to react quickly and still be efficient as the ground beneath us shifts, requires a resilient mindset and skills that are not normally taught in leadership development programs.


Being able to react quickly and still be efficient as the ground beneath us shifts, requires a resilient mindset …

Last month our theme was how to manage uncertainty; this month’s theme is “Leading in the Tough Times.” To deal with uncertainty one starts with knowing what you control and what you cannot. At the extremely basic level, the only thing we control is how we think and what we do. This may be why emotional intelligence has been credited as the top reason for successful leadership. Knowing what is going on within increases one’s ability to manage others.

Despite the positive associations and links between successful leadership and “emotional intelligence (Ei),” there are challenges in operationalizing Ei. To begin, Ei is not precise. Definitions range from “being empathetic,” to “people skills;” to make it worse, academic definitions do not even agree because each researcher’s point of view differs! As an Executive Coach and facilitator of Ei training, I have witnessed the confusion and frustration leaders have with making sense of “how to be” emotionally intelligent. As a result, many ignore the concept all together.

For this reason, I break Ei down into manageable and practical elements to be understood and then applied in a practical way. In keeping with our theme (Leading in the Tough Times) and the current challenges, this post is about optimism in the face of challenge.

A simple definition of optimism is you believe your actions will have a positive impact.

We have all heard the metaphor describing optimism, “seeing the glass as half full,” and there is the description of optimism as a “Pollyanna” attitude. Both of these are limited in their ability to explain the power behind optimism.

In my work with successful leaders, I have seen optimism at work. It is a perspective, a filter through which one views what is happening around you. And while it is considered something one is born with; optimism can be learned. I know this to be true having worked with hundreds of leaders and witnessed the mind-shift when they learned to deal with the pressure and stress.

Optimism is a natural outgrowth of a resilient mindset.

The truth is optimism has been shown to be a powerful moderator of stress. Optimistic people:

  • have better physical and mental health than others
  • have less anxiety and better coping mechanisms
  • are more resilient
  • recuperate quicker from challenges and stress
  • sleep better
  • have less heart problems

There is much evidence to suggest optimism is a boost to one’s health and a critical factor in achieving one’s goals.

Optimism is all about how we perceive things. Consider the following example:

Tom and Jake are both about the same age and have the same career prospects. Both of them went through a long and painful divorce after being married for over ten years. The emotional stress rocked their world. Tom chooses to move ahead, focusing on his career and the opportunities that lay ahead of him. Jake spirals into the emotional turmoil and gets stuck in despair, not able to see anything worth pursuing.

Tom sees his future as positive, recognizing that what happened to him does not define him. Jake, on the other hand, struggles with a negative viewpoint, unable to see what is possible.

Optimism is essentially a mindset – it is a choice about you shape your thoughts and what action you take as a result of those thoughts.

Here are the elements of optimism.

  • Inner sense of control (belief in oneself vs feeling overwhelmed by events)
  • Motivation (inner drive to do something)
  • Sense of accomplishment (recognizing one’s achievement and taking pleasure in that)
  • Self-confidence (treating oneself with respect)
  • Gratitude (appreciation, thankfulness, ability to value experiences)
  • Resilience (grit, courage, persistence)


Would you like to learn more about optimism and have access to tips, strategies, and the chance to measure your own optimism? Check out the Optimism, Toolkit, in the Work Smart Club.

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Optimism is a Strategy to Fight Adversity

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Dr. Cynthia Howard

Executive Coach  Performance Consultant  LSSBB

It takes resilience and agility to stay focused in these disruptive times. We want to help you get ahead of the challenges in this digital age with short practical tips. Go forward. Be your best

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