I am a natural optimist.
Being an optimist is part of being a head-in-the-clouds Pisces and it’s just who I am.
But, working for myself and trying to build a business and brand for the past year and a half has shown me that it can be hard to stay that way. Even on my best, most productive days, I have moments of doubt, anger, and questioning.
I know these things are completely natural when you’re a new entrepreneur, but they are so incredibly detrimental to success and productivity.
In this post, I discuss 8 ways to be an optimist. Whether you’re a natural one like me but need to trick your brain sometimes or you’re actually a pessimist looking for a change, these tips will get you on the right mindset track.
Finish Your Tasks, Jerk
If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile or have watched my vlog, you’ll know that a short motto I’ve adopted over the last several months is Just Start. This little motto I tell myself, and even write on my wrist in Sharpie sometimes (thinking a tattoo may be in order someday…), is a reminder. It’s a reminder that when I’m feeling down or upset with myself for not getting stuff done, I need to just start.
I feel instantly better when I start a task. It’s far too easy to sit there and dwell on the shortcomings and get yourself into that negative spiral and then never get anything done.
We can’t only start things, though. We must finish them.
There’s an Avett Brothers lyric that hits a little too close to home for me that goes like this:
I haven’t finished a thing since I started my life
I don’t feel much like starting now
But, you know what? Nothing feels better than actually finishing a task! One of my proudest days ever was the day I launched Guitar Chord Kick-Start.
That was a huge project! When I had the idea, it was almost insurmountable. How do you go from idea to completion without completely losing your mind?
Break your projects down into small, easy steps. Reasonable and actionable goals are the key to finishing.
When you break your project down into baby steps, you’ll feel good every time you finish something. Moving forward, this newfound optimism will get you inspired to tackle the next task on your list.
With every task you accomplish, you’re creating a snowball effect and building on it. One task spills into the next, which spills into the next, each one getting bigger. You’re feeling better and better as you recognize the progress and accomplishments in your day-to-day.
Find Opportunities in Every Situation
Sometimes, when you’re working on something, you come to a roadblock you just can’t get past. It happens to the best of us and it can happen often.
What do you do when you come up to one of these obstacles? Stop working?
I used to. And sometimes I still do. I know we all do. It’s pretty easy to get stuck and think, “Well … YouTube looks pretty good right about now.” Even if you’re justifying it as, “I’ll just clear my head for a little bit and come back to it,” it’s not the best way to spend your time.
And, trust me, it’s not going to help with your optimism and positivity. Remember that negative spiral from not starting? It’s coming right back.
Instead of taking a break or stopping altogether, look for the opportunities that weren’t there before. What things presented themselves during this roadblock that weren’t available or recognizable earlier?
It can be as far off as a completely new project or an idea you’ve had but haven’t started fleshing out yet. It can also be as simple as chipping away at your to-do list.
Maybe you’re not getting the support you need for a project at work, or maybe your server’s down and you can’t get that blog post up. Figure out what you can do in the meantime that wouldn’t be getting done otherwise.
The moral of the story is to not waste your time doing stuff that doesn’t move the needle – stuff that doesn’t progress your work or your business. Recoup the time you would have been spending doing this project and, instead of sitting and moping, do something else while you wait!
Channel Your Inner Improv Comedian
The number one rule of improv comedy is, “Yes, and.” The theory behind this is that you always want to be pushing the story forward and continuing the flow. If another actor throws something out there, you don’t say, “No,” or, “Yes, but.” You just go with it. They set the story in one direction and you roll with it. It’s the only way to keep scenes alive and believable.
To be an optimist, you must be ready to say, “Yes,” and roll with it. Nobody likes a dream crusher. Nobody likes a naysayer.
Now, this isn’t about being blindly agreeable to anything and everything. It’s about helping along somebody else’s story. If a colleague or friend asks you for something, say yes and help them. You’ll feel better knowing you did some good and will most likely learn something in the process.
Be Open to More
Furthering the “Yes, and” rule, the perpetual optimist is always open to something. Ideas, experiences, relationships – it doesn’t matter what. It matters that you keep an open mind.
How many times have you said, “no” to something, only to find out that it was a ton of fun? Or maybe you turned something down in which you found out there was an incredible experience to be had or a valuable lesson to be learned?
More often than not, the things we say no to turn out to be fine. By opening yourself up to more, other folks will start to see you as a positive person. Peoples’ belief in you as an optimist will surely boost your confidence. In turn, this leads to you continuing that positivity flow.
Now the flip side to this is to not be afraid to say, “no.”
Let me rephrase that. You should be open to saying, “no.”
Sometimes it’s truly necessary to keep working or even just take a break and have some alone time. So, part of being open to more is being open to more work. Be open to more you-time.
If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re most likely setting your own schedule. It’s far too easy to be open to going out with a friend for a beach session or grabbing a drink at 2 in the afternoon because it’s their day off. Don’t let that FOMO get the best of you. You should be open to working harder and doing more.
Admittedly, this one is probably the hardest to balance. You need to be open to more experiences but also open to turning things down. Your gut will tell you what’s right in any given situation. Always listen to your gut.
That inner voice telling you you suck and to quit? Shut it down!
Ok, listen to your gut about those quick decisions. But do not, I repeat, DO NOT listen to that voice in your head when it’s bringing you down.
When you’re working, especially alone as an entrepreneur (or solopreneur), it’s super easy to start getting down on yourself.
“You didn’t get enough done today.”
“Why didn’t you finish that post you said you were going to finish today?”
“You’re never going to make it!!!”
Don’t let the optimist fool you. He or she hears this voice just the same, but they do something about it.
And it’s not just crawling back in bed and watching Netflix.
To really become an optimist, you must ignore this voice at all costs. You need to really tune into your inner voice and the second it starts creeping toward the negative, shut it down. These negative thoughts you’re telling yourself are just judgments made without facts. They are hasty decisions that you shouldn’t listen to.
Try some deep breathing exercises for a minute or two. Try dancing or any of the other positivity practices I wrote about here. Whatever you do, get your mind away from that inner voice and just start again.
Start a Gratitude List
Optimists are grateful. They’re grateful for what they have, who they are, and even the bad things because they know they are just learning experiences.
You can find more of my thoughts about this in my posts on positivity, the Miracle Morning, and beating procrastination. It is one of the most beneficial daily habits I have. Practicing gratitude helps tremendously with optimism.
For one, you stop focusing on the bad things and revel in the good. When you take the time to think about things you’re thankful for, you realize just how much you really have.
On top of writing down things you’re grateful for every morning, try writing down 3 wins – big or small – for the day before you go to bed. I do this and find myself saying, “Holy cow … I had a good day!” all the time. As the day progresses, it’s easy to get down on yourself and think you didn’t get enough done.
Writing down some wins every day keeps it all in perspective. Building a business is about making progress every day … those little wins. It’s not about overnight success. That shit doesn’t happen.
Empower and Help Others
The best thing we can do is to empower and help other people. There’s nothing more gratifying than seeing someone succeed because of the advice or assistance you gave.
If you’re working on being an optimist, try helping someone. The trick is to not just do things for them but to teach them. Help someone learn how to do what you know so that they are empowered to make decisions and do more on their own.
Empowering someone to be a better version of themselves is one of the swiftest kicks in the butt to make you a better version of yourself, as well.
Taking this a little further, helping other people is a fantastic way to build your confidence, happiness, and positivity. I’m not saying to do this for yourself, though.
Do this for those that need help. The joy and gratitude you see in someone who needed assistance will make you feel so good, that you can’t help but be optimistic.
If you step outside yourself and do some good, you’ll feel better knowing that someone else’s life is now just a little bit easier. Not only will it show that you saw an opportunity when someone else saw an obstacle, you’ll feel good about it because they feel good about it.
It’s not about the thanks. It’s not about looking good to other people. It’s about knowing that you were able to lend a hand to someone in need. Do it for them and feel good knowing that. That is the reward.
Find the Positive
Probably the most well known yet most easily forgotten tip for being an optimist is to find the positive in everything. I know this is easier said than done, but it’s the most important thing we can do for ourselves.
Our outlook plays the biggest part on our happiness. If you’re looking at everything with that “glass half empty” vibe and spinning in your negative spiral, of course you’re going to be unhappy!
But, find the positive in every person and situation, and you’ll quickly realize that you feel better.
Got in a car accident? At least you didn’t die!
This also reminds me of a quick story from when I was young playing baseball.
I was probably about 13, playing catcher (it’s the best position. Maybe I’m a bit of a masochist, but I still miss suiting up and diving around on my knees to block balls. Plus, you’re in control of the game and you look like a badass space alien robot.).
Some big brute of a dude came barreling in from 3rd base on a sac-fly. The ball came in, I caught it, and the next thing I knew, I was looking up at the umpire and my manager. The umpire saw the ball in my glove, called the guy out, and I stayed on the dirt a little while longer.
Apparently, he took me out like a freight train and landed hard on my leg.
When they helped me up, we were walking down the baseline and the umpire said to me, “You want me to punch you really hard in your arm so you don’t notice your leg anymore?”
Ha! (I think I managed a chuckle through my tough guy grunts and “sweaty” eyes 😢 .)
That little question has stuck with me for over 15 years. It is my go-to story whenever I’m trying to tell someone to look on the bright side. Not only was it an offer to take my mind off the current pain, it was also the threat (fake, of course) of getting punched by a buff 40-something-year-old man.
Finding the positive. Sure, my leg was banged up, but at least my arm wasn’t, too!
Optimism is the Key to Happiness
I hope these tips helped you in some way to see that it’s all about mindset. The next time you feel yourself heading down that negative path, try a few of these tips out. In fact, try putting these into practice daily and you’ll quickly realize your attitude and outlook changing.
With that, productivity heightens and success will come.
You may not naturally be an optimist, but I guarantee you can get there if you start working on these things.