I first heard of Lynn on one of the writing loops we are both members of, and enjoyed visiting her encouraging blog about making changes in life, 10 minutes at a time. I wanted to share her wisdom and strategies with y'all, so I invited her here to visit us.
She's graciously agreed to give away a copy of The Kaizen Plan for Healthy Eating, so comment to enter. I'll choose a winner and post at the end of the night, so be sure to check back!
Forget About the Glass: Succeed More Often By Being Both an Optimist and a Pessimist
Optimists tend to be healthier, happier, and more successful in life than their talents merit. At least that's what psychological studies show. Optimists are also more likely to dream big, stick to their goals, and keep their sense of humor intact in the face of disaster. They tend to believe that problems are temporary, specific to their current circumstances, and solvable.
Pessimists, on the other hand, are more often right when asked to predict the outcome of a situation, according to those same studies. Pessimists are also more likely to study harder in school, save money for the future, and work longer hours. They're more likely to suffer health problems and depression. They tend to believe that problems are permanent, generalized, and not solvable.
Glass half-full or glass half-empty? Happy or right? Which do you want to be?
You probably feel like you have to choose between the two. But although you might favor one of these perspectives over the other, you do have the ability to switch between them. Optimism and pessimism aren't personalities, they're modes of thinking. And they're both both useful tools, if you use them correctly.
What are they useful for? Committing to and achieving your goals.
How Being Both an Optimist and a Pessimist Can Help You Achieve Your Goals
Studies by Dr. Gabriele Oettingen and her colleagues showed that there's a difference between fantasizing about success and expecting success. Oettingen has also identified four steps that significantly increase the likelihood that you'll stick to your goals until you achieve them:
1. Expect success. Think about your past successes, the resources available to you, and the capabilities that you bring to achieving this goal. What are the reasons why you can achieve this goal?
2. Be an optimist. Imagine a positive vision of the problem solved or the goal achieved. What will be different when you get there? How will you feel when you succeed?
3. Be a pessimist. Think about the obstacles standing between you and your goal. What problems will you have to overcome on the way to success? What could go wrong?
4. Contrast the optimistic and pessimistic. How can you use your resources and capabilities to overcome the obstacles you identified? How do your past successes—or the lessons you learned from past failures—make qualify you to succeed here? Are you willing to do the work to get where you want to go? Is it possible that the actual project won't match either your optimistic or pessimistic views of it, but will fall somewhere in between?
Contrasting the positive with the negative not only gives you a more realistic picture of how you might succeed, it also prepares you to overcome obstacles while maintaining your enthusiasm for the work and your optimistic vision of the project's outcome. Step one helps you gather your resources. Step two engages you emotionally and focuses you on your motivation. Step three engages you intellectually and prepares you to do the work. Step four brings your emotions and intellect in synch, so that your heart and your head are both going in the same direction.
Do you have a new project that you'd like to commit to? Or a dead project that you'd like to revive? Take a few minutes to go through the four steps described above with your project in mind. Did your thoughts or feelings about this project change?
Lynn Johnston blogs about how to take control of your life 10 minutes at a time using the kaizen approach at http://www.smallstepstobigchange.com. Each week, readers of her blog receive a small, simple step they can use to improve some area of their lives. She's the author of The Kaizen Plan for Healthy Eating and The Kaizen Plan for Decluttering Your Computer (http://tinyurl.com/4yheo3u).