May 6

Develop Optimism


The competency of Exercise Optimism is a crucial element that significantly influences one’s ability to thrive in various aspects of life. The Six Seconds Model of Emotional Intelligence, which focuses on actionable EQ skills, identifies exercise optimism as a vital component. This competency involves the ability to maintain a positive outlook, see opportunities in challenges, and expect a good outcome even in the face of adversity.


Over the years I have worked with hundreds of people, guiding them through difficult challenges in their life. Much of that work is inside organizations. One of the first things I look for when I assess the culture and behaviors in an organization is the presence of optimism. Optimism is a key indicator of engagement levels and a driver of energy and effort. One of the organizations I have worked with was going through an unexpected downturn. The loss of optimism was significant. The circumstances had become so challenging that they had no energy for anything else. They asked me to come in and see what could be done to "get things back on track". The entire environment had shifted to pessimism.

As I began spending time with people, working through my discovery process and doing my assessments, I realized that there was a primary source of the pessimism. A senior leader that everyone looked to for guidance within the organization was going through one of those "perfect storm" scenarios. He had suffered personal loss of a loved one, had 2 key employees leave, and had some recent customer issues that were creating stress for him. On top of this, he found another family member had been given a serious medical diagnosis.

This certainly seems to be the time when there is little reason to be optimistic, right?!

It became clear that all of these challenges were the source of his pessimism. What he did not understand was his dramatic shift in his emotional environment had sent waves of uncertainty and concern throughout the organization. People who were usually optimistic and forward thinking, who encouraged others, had subdued their optimism because of the unknown. I even had one employee say, "I think we are going out of business so I guess I need to look for another job."

When I told this leader what the employee had said, he was shocked. He had no idea his shift had impacted so many people. It was one of those "light bulb" moments. He looked at me and asked, "What can I do?" That is when the real work started. I showed him a diagram created by a good friend of mine, Daphne Berniker, who is an expert in the field of motivation.

performance graph

The original research came from William Bridges and Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. This is an adaptation that helps us better understand what happens to us when something changes that has a negative impact.

As we discussed this graphic, the leader could see where he had allowed himself to be controlled by the circumstances. He received clarity about how this impacted him, his people, and the organization. He was stuck at the bottom of the curve, in anxiety. We next focused on what it would take for him to move to acceptance so he could begin that climb back to a better place.

That is when we started to talk about optimism as a choice. Like many people, he thought optimism was an outcome, not a choice. Once we were able to reframe this in his mind, he realized that he could pro-actively choose optimism even in the face of challenges and circumstances. You could see an immediate lifting of the burden he was carrying. The emotional burden.

Equipped now with a better context and tools to help him, he began the important work of turning the culture and organizational mood back in a positive direction. Optimism was re-ignited in himself and his people.

This is a success story. The reality is that this story is occurring in organizations everywhere. Uncertainty, change, fear of the unknown, challenges and circumstances are keeping people stuck.

Part of the solution is this critical skill of exercising optimism.

Defining Exercise Optimism

Exercise optimism is not just about having a sunny disposition; it's a strategic approach to life that involves expecting the best possible outcome from any given situation and actively working towards that outcome. It's about seeing the best in others, the possibilities in challenges, and maintaining hope even when circumstances are difficult. This competency is underpinned by the belief that optimistic thinking can influence outcomes, leading to more effective problem-solving and decision-making.

Exercise Optimism in Daily Life

In daily life, exercise optimism can look like:

  • In personal relationships, it appears as giving others the benefit of the doubt or focusing on solutions rather than problems.
  • Professionally, it shows through leadership that encourages teams during challenging projects or in the face of setbacks.
  •  On a personal level, it might be seen in the perseverance through personal challenges, from career hurdles to health issues, with a hopeful outlook.

Identifying Low Exercise Optimism

Identifying a deficiency in exercise optimism might involve noticing:

  • A pattern of anticipating the worst outcomes.
  • Frequent feelings of helplessness or hopelessness in challenging situations.
  • Reluctance to engage in new opportunities due to a fear of failure.
  •  Persistent focus on past failures rather than future possibilities.

Consequences of Low Exercise Optimism

Individuals with low exercise optimism might experience a range of negative consequences:

  • Increased susceptibility to stress and anxiety, as they may focus more on potential pitfalls than on solutions.
  • Missed opportunities due to a tendency to expect and therefore prepare less for positive outcomes.
  •  Challenges in relationships and teamwork, as a negative outlook can decrease morale and increase conflict.

Strategies for Developing Exercise Optimism

Building exercise optimism involves intentional practice and mindset shifts:

  • Reframing Challenges: Learning to see problems as opportunities for growth and development.
  • Gratitude Practices: Regularly acknowledging and appreciating the good in one's life, which can shift focus from negative to positive.
  • Setting Achievable Goals: Creating realistic, achievable goals that provide frequent opportunities for success and positive reinforcement.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Techniques: Challenging pessimistic thoughts and replacing them with more balanced and optimistic ones.
  •  Mindfulness and Meditation: These practices can help manage stress and foster a more present, positive outlook on life.

Benefits of Developing Exercise Optimism

Cultivating exercise optimism offers numerous benefits:

  • Improved resilience, allowing individuals to bounce back more quickly from setbacks.
  • Enhanced problem-solving capabilities, as a positive outlook enables more creative and effective solutions.
  • Better health outcomes, as optimism has been linked to reduced stress and better immune response.
  •  Increased success in personal and professional endeavors, as optimistic individuals are more likely to persist in their efforts and inspire others.

3 ways to make optimism work for you

If we can approach our lives with an optimistic mindset, then we have a huge advantage. Here are 3 ways to make optimism work for you.

  1. Motivation and energy - an optimistic approach naturally enhances our internal motivation and energy. The more we choose optimism, the more energy we will generate to do the things we need and want to do.
  2. Options - an optimistic mindset frees our brains to come up with more options. It promotes a divergent thinking process that helps us to see greater possibilities and different ways of getting there.
  3.  Optimism engages your creativity, allowing you to be more innovative. This enhances the potential for better solutions.

BONUS - I know I said 3 ways, but here is an important 4th way. Optimism creates an emotional environment that allows you to access your higher cognitive functions. Critical thinking, strategic thinking, abstract thinking, problem solving, consequential thinking...these are some of those higher thinking processes that optimism facilitates.

When you think of optimism, don't think, "fake it till I make it." That is not genuine and does not really work. Think of optimism as a choice. A choice to be more intentional about practicing optimism. Notice when I say "practice optimism", you could start in pessimism. The choice comes when you decide whether you will stay pessimistic or choose to practice optimism. Using the bullet points earlier in this article will help you to practice optimism.

Exercise optimism is a dynamic and powerful emotional intelligence competency that enhances personal well-being and professional effectiveness. By fostering a positive outlook, individuals can transform their approach to life’s challenges, leading to greater success and fulfillment. Through intentional practice and strategic thinking, anyone can increase their level of exercise optimism and reap its many rewards.

Copyright © 2024 EQFIT® - Author: Steven Goodner. All rights reserved. No portion of this material may be reproduced in any form without permission from the author, except as permitted by U.S. copyright law. For permissions contact:


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