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My friend and fellow coach Cecilia Rose asks, “Do you want to be a Naysayer or a Yaysayer?”  Some of us want to be Yaysayers but we struggle with seeing the glass as half full.

Nature and Nurture

It may be helpful to know that research published in the journal Psychological Science indicates that a combination of environmental and biological factors can amplify negative experiences.  MIT neuroscientists recently pinpointed a brain region that can generate a pessimistic outlook.

The Right Balance

While a healthy dose of pessimism can contribute to critical thinking, optimism has been proven to be beneficial to our well-being.  How do Naysayers find the right balance?

  • Hope for the best and plan for the worst – this approach allows us to feel prepared so that we can focus on envisioning the positive outcomes
  • Practice gratitude – we can start with the simple step of sharing something good at the end of each day and work up to keeping a journal as a resource when our outlook gets cloudy
  • Find an accountability partner– we have a much better shot at succeeding if someone is willing to gently remind us of our commitment to changing our behavior, especially if they use humor

If you’re hardwired for pessimism I encourage you to work on getting the benefits of optimism – for yourself and those around you!

12 days before my son’s wedding he and his fiancée were trapped in their home, surrounded by water.  My husband and I were in Austin watching news coverage of people being rescued, some by helicopter.  I was an emotional wreck – completely caught up in all of the negative possibilities.  Thankfully, they never lost power and didn’t get any water in their house, but it was close.

Brain Shift

As the water began to recede and we plotted our route back to Houston, we started talking about the likelihood that the rehearsal dinner and the wedding could take place.  I was too quick to say, “It’s probably a long shot.”  Once I knew my family, friends and clients were safe, however, my brain was able to make a shift and I said out loud, “I choose optimism!”  The powerful stories of people all over the Houston area choosing optimism in the midst of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation and despair continued to encourage me.

Practice

It’s one thing to talk rationally about how emotion can highjack our brains; it’s another to experience that highjacking so viscerally.  I need a lot more practice at choosing optimism at every opportunity so I can rely on that “muscle memory” when I need it most.  Rather than dwell on the negative emotions like fear of what lies ahead, anger at the bureaucratic nightmare of insurance claims or survivor guilt for those who didn’t suffer damage, we can remind each other of the power of optimism.  #houstonstrong