We have all heard the expression, is the glass half full or half empty. How you perceive it tells you something about your own perception on life.
Do you choose to be optimistic and feel gratitude for the half full glass or do you choose pessimism and feel disappointment that the glass is half empty. This glass can represent your career, your marriage and even your faith.
Optimism is more than just having a sunny disposition. It embodies an attitude of perseverance, patience and not giving up in the face of difficulty. An optimistic person will notice opportunities instead of focusing on the hardships. This all describes positive thinking patterns which in turn makes your emotions more stable. This cycle of positive thought patterns and emotions will undoubtedly lead to better behaviors.
Can you be Overly Optimistic?
Some will say that being optimistic opens people up for disappointment and greater let downs. While that can be true to an extent, if you actively try to bring optimism into your life it gives you more resilience when faced with hardship. We know that even a test or difficulty can have great reward and outcomes in the end. Focusing on that end result and having patience is more beneficial than focusing on the hardship.
“For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease” [Quran 94:5]
This is not to say that we should be unrealistic and always expect rainbows and kittens, sometimes hardships will come into your life. It is healthy to be logical and acknowledge risks associated with your actions. Ideally you should strive for optimistic thought patterns that are also rational. I am not advocating for grandiose illusions that you will become a millionaire overnight and have the perfect marriage all because you chose to see the glass as half-full, that is not realistic.
Anxiety and Optimism
If we think about anxiety, we can summarize that as fear of the unknown which can hinder someone’s ability to function when not controlled. Anxiety disorders hold people back from going after their dreams because they are so afraid to fail that they don’t even try.
An optimist is more likely to pursue their ambitions because of their positive outlook; they see opportunity and believe they can achieve it. We like to know we are right and often encounter self-fulfilling prophecies, which simply means we alter our behavior and thought patterns in order to cause those self-expectations to come true.
For example, an optimistic teacher expects a student to get an A on the exam so they spend extra time helping them study which results in them getting an A. On the other side of that, a pessimistic teacher may expect a student to perform poorly so they don’t pay them much attention in class which results in a lower grade. We are not actually predicting anything; we are altering our own behaviors in order to make those expectations a reality.
Now imagine if you expected yourself to succeed at work, do you think this would cause you to work harder? What if you expected your marriage to fail, would you self-sabotage without realizing it just to prove yourself right?
Impact of Optimism
When someone decides to take steps forward to increase their optimism, they are choosing to bring more positivity and gratefulness into their life. If you take on an optimistic perspective when failure happens, instead of becoming defeated you will have the power to see that as a temporary setback and even a lesson. If you have ever heard of failing forward, that is an optimistic mindset.
You can even expect physical health benefits from increased optimism. Studies show that pessimistic people are at a higher risk for hypertension, a hindered immune system and some even claim a reduced life span. It makes logical sense that choosing to see the world with more positivity will lower health risks associated with stress.
You increase your chances of success. The person who goes into a job interview second guessing themselves will not come off as competent to the manager, but the optimistic interviewee that knows they are qualified are more likely to exude confidence and garner trust from the manager.
Your marriage can even increase in happiness if you approach everyday as a blessing to be with them and have optimistic views for your future together. Your wife or husband would feel happier if they get a sense of positivity and happiness from you instead of negative comments.
5 Tips to Increase Optimism
Fake it till you make it. Even if you are unsure of your abilities, do your best and tell yourself that you can achieve success. Keep trying and do it with a smile. The more you believe you can achieve success, the more likely you will.
Avoid negative/pessimistic people as much as you can. The social circles you choose to be around will impact your thought patterns and behaviors. It is not easy to be an optimistic in a room full of negative-nancies. Even your faith can be impacted by those you choose to keep as friends.
Man follows his friend’s religion, you should be careful who you take for friends[At-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud]
Focus on what you can change. I have always liked the expression don’t cry over spilt milk. Which simply means, if you can’t change something then don’t let it bring down your mood. Focus on the things you can positively impact and let the rest go.
Eliminate negative self-talk. The next time you hear yourself saying “I can’t…” stop yourself and rephrase that to “I can because…” or “I will try my best”. This goes back to self-fulfilling prophecies; don’t set yourself up for failure by thinking you will not succeed before you even try.
Exercise gratitude daily. Every evening after maghrib take a moment to reflect on 3 positive things from your day. Allow yourself to feel gratitude and say Alhamdulillah after each one.
We know that nothing is too difficult or out of grasp for Allah (most glorified and exalted), taking time to really reflect on this reminds us that we can make duaa for anything as long as it is just and in line with our faith.
His command is only when He intends a thing that He says to it, “Be,” and it is.[Quran 36:82]
How can we not feel optimism and hope when we are servants of the one that created everything and has ultimate power over everything.
Re-published with kind permission from the author. Originally published on the author’s blog.