We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.
Optimism has never been cool but even COVID-19 can give us reasons to be cheerful. Stressful life events, such as those instigated by the coronavirus pandemic, have significant influence on our psychological functioning and well-being, and can be a catalyst for psychological problems including anxiety, confusion, social withdrawal, and depression.
We have a choice in how we think about any situation we face.
Even if you weren’t born an optimist, you can still learn to think like one.
Optimism seems to me as essential a commodity as antibacterial gel. Along with vaccine and ventilators, it’s a vital weapon in this global duel with COVID-19. For the first time in history, nearly every scientist in the world is focused on the same problem and this is starting to pay real dividends There are reasons to be cheerful amid the gloom. Even if we don’t know how to defeat this enemy yet, we know a lot more about how it operates.
Offstage, an unprecedented scientific collaboration is under way to find vaccines and treatments. Doctors and nurses are learning fast about how to handle the symptoms. When we come out the other side of this, we’ll be far better prepared for any future public health challenge. In some ways, we will be a more adaptable and resilient society, if only through necessity. My take on optimism is based on these beliefs: Bad things happen in life, but they are temporary. Bad things in life are limited in scope. We get to choose our attitude and optimism is a choice we all can make each day. Optimism is like seed we plant that bears fruit and a smile in the face of oppression.
I am not suggesting that we approach life, totally discounting reality or facts. Positive thinking doesn’t mean that you ignore life’s stressors. You just approach hardship in a more productive way. Constructing an optimistic vision of life allows one to have a full engagement with the world in spite of unfortunate circumstances. Being positive reduces feelings of sadness/depression and anxiety, and creates stronger relationships with others. It helps build resilience and is coping skill during times of hardship. Being optimistic allows you to handle stressful situations better.
Paradigms are like glasses. When you have incomplete paradigms about yourself or life in general, it’s like wearing glasses with the wrong prescription. That lens affects how you see everything else.
As a man walked along the road, he saw a monk working in a field, so he stopped and said to the monk, “I’m on my way to the village in the valley, can you tell me what it’s like?” The monk looked up from his labour and asked the man where he had come from. The man responded, “I have come from the village in the mountains.” “What was that like?” the monk asked. “Terrible!” the man exclaimed, “no-one spoke my language, I had to sleep on a dirt floor in one of their houses, they fed me some sort of stew that had yak or dog or both in it and the weather was atrocious.” “Then I think that you will find that the village in the valley is much the same,” the monk noted.
A few hours later another traveller passed by and he said to the monk, “I am on my way to the village in the valley, can you tell what it’s like?” “Where have you come from?” enquired the monk. “I have come from the village in the mountains.” “And what was that like?” “It was awesome!” the man replied, “No-one spoke my language so we had to communicate using our hands and facial expressions. I had to sleep on the dirt floor which was really cool as I’ve never done that before. They fed me some sort of weird stew and I have no idea what was in it but just to experience how the locals lived was great and the weather was freezing cold, which meant that I really got a taste of the local conditions. It was one of the best experiences of my life.” “Then I think that you’ll find that the village in the valley is much the same,” responded the monk. (anon)
“To change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.” ― Stephen R. Covey
Personal construct theory suggests that people develop personal constructs about how the world works. These constructs are integrated into their own self-image, reflected in their biases, and part of their reactions/responses in most situations. People then use these constructs to make sense of their observations and experiences.
The world we live in is the same for all of us, but the way we experience it is different for each individual. for example, I often walk my Giant Schnauzer on the beach. Now, imagine that you and your friend are going for a walk on my local beach and you see my exceptionally large dog running towards you. You immediately see a graceful and adorable animal that you would like to pet. Your friend, on the other hand, sees a threatening animal that they want to avoid.
How can two people have such a different interpretation of the same event?
I found this great story on Paulo Coelho’s blog.
A young couple moved into a new neighbourhood. The next morning while they were eating breakfast, the young woman saw her neighbour hanging the washing outside. “That laundry is not very clean; she doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.” Her husband looked on, remaining silent. Every time her neighbour hung her washing out to dry, the young woman made the same comments. A month later, the woman was surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband, “Look, she’s finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?” The husband replied, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”
And so, it is with life…
What we see when watching others depends on the clarity of the window through which we look.
Now … Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond. Don’t allow the challenges of life to take away your joy. There are lots of reasons to complain and be miserable if that’s how you look at life. There are lots of reasons to be enthusiastic and joyful if that’s how you look at life.
We ask “why” to a lot of external factors, but very rarely we ask that about ourselves. It’s also a way to get to know yourself as if getting to know another person. As we begin to answer these questions, we realize that it’s not the external factors that bring happiness, sadness, guilt, or joy, and it’s more about understanding our own values. Now, have a conversation with yourself and reflect on your answers when you do ask these “whys.”
Changing your thinking also means being open to other opinions, especially if it challenges your own. You’ll begin to realize that the more mindset work you dive into, the more you will be approaching new opinions and ideas from a grounding and calming place. Things that used to make you defensive, will slowly turn into a question of curiosity instead.
THE MENTAL FILTER – 3 questions to ask yourself
- Why do other people bother me?
- Why do I feel uneasy in certain situations?
- Why do I get irritated with others?
I can take you to success. I coach ordinary people every day to do extra-ordinary things. I coach extra-ordinary people to do extra-ordinary things. The difference is those who have a dream, and are prepared to follow said dream, are extraordinary, and just need a structure and support system to kick off that journey, which will finish with them sliding in fast sideways to the grave, totally worn out from the relentless living of their dreams, screaming out loudly “Wow holy sh*t, what a ride!”
If that is you – start today! If you are looking for coaching on change for yourself or your organisation, or would like more information on the work we do on Personal, Professional, or Organisational Change, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
About Dr Maurice Duffy
Irish. Author, Professor, Coach and Business strategist. The person Australian Captain Steve Smith credited with helping him back from his cricket ban. Coach to two Ashes wins. Coach to CEOs, Politicians and some of the best know international sports starts including Olympians. BBC ‘Thought for the Week’. Coached business leaders and organizations in 80 countries. Works with charities to do with Mental Health. Lives in North East England with his wife and 11-year-old son.