I recently stumbled upon an inspiring TED Talk by Tali Sharot, author of The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain, where she discussed the value of overestimating the positive. “Some people say the secret to happiness is low expectations,” she explained. “If we don’t expect greatness, if we don’t expect to find love and be healthy and successful, we’re not going to be disappointed when these things don’t happen. And when we’re pleasantly surprised when they do, we will be happy. It’s a very good theory, but it is wrong.”
Someone please give that woman an “Amen!” I’ve never understood the reasoning behind low expectations, as it seemed to often belong to people who perpetuated mediocrity. I’ve always been more in favor of the school of thought that says that good things come to those who challenge themselves, work really hard, and believe in their ability to be successful. Those folks have good reason to be optimistic because they are they are the architects of their own lives. Along similar lines of thought, Tali shares the following reasons why low expectations do in fact not lead to happiness:
“Whatever happens, whether you succeed or fail, people with high expectations always feel better, because how we feel – when we get dumped or we win employee of the month – depends on how we interpret that event.”
Tali reminds us that we have choice in how we interpret the things that happen in our lives, and this choice can very well determine our happiness. Does failing (whatever that might look like for you) tend to make you lie nose first on the ground feeling sorry for yourself, or does it motivate you to get up and fight for the future you have imagined? When life goes wrong, do you blame yourself, call yourself bad names, maybe even feel worthless? Or do you accept that some things are outside of your control and have nothing to do with your ability to be successful? If you make the conscious choice to interpret events positively and to attribute constructive emotions to such events, you are allowing room for success and happiness in your life.
“Regardless of outcome, the pure act of anticipation makes us happy.”
There’s nothing that frustrates me more than the feeling of being stuck. When I feel like I have limited options and nothing to look forward to, it is as if my wings are clipped. I become a very unhappy person who even I don’t want to be around. There is much joy in possibility and anticipation. Whether it is daydreaming about a vacation, a wedding, the arrival of a baby, a career change, or a new movie coming out, anticipation is exciting and energizing. Spend time visualizing your future. It gives you something to look forward to, boosts your energy, gets you excited, and often allows you to see the world around you through fresh eyes.
“Optimism changes objective reality. It acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
This reason reminds me a lot of the message behind The Secret, which says that if you want to attract good things to our lives, you must: 1) ask the universe for it, 2) behave as if it is on its way to us (i.e., believe optimistically), and 3) be open to receiving it. As the author of your own reality, you will attract success only when you believe that you will be successful. When you expect a bright future, you will also feel less anxious and, by default, also happier. On the other hand, when you don’t believe in yourself and fear the future, it impedes your ability to be successful. Low expectations and negative self-talk breeds failure.
The evidence for optimism is strong, and you’d be selling yourself short if you didn’t make the conscious choice to live an optimistic, healthy, and successful life. I use the word “choice” because I recognize that it isn’t always an easy task. We often get caught up in life’s realities, forgetting that we have a say in how our stories play out. Cooper Carry (the design firm) reminds us on their feel-good website, ReasonsforOptimism.com:
“It is easy to forget that in today’s not-so-optimistic world real progress continues, beauty appears, brave new worlds are explored, and creativity flows. We keep seeking – and occasionally finding – our best selves. There are, in fact, reasons for optimism everywhere we look.”
Take time every day to find things that sustain and restore your optimistic point of view. Choose constructive emotions and interpret life’s events positively. As your feet touch the ground first thing in the morning, think, “This is going to be a good day!” When you brush your teeth, take a moment to look in the mirror while thinking, “I believe that good things are on their way to me today.” On your way to work, say out loud, “I attract happiness, good health, and success.” Say it over and over and over again until you mean it. And then, say it some more. The universe will only give you your heart’s desire when you believe.
So, are you ready to ignite your inner optimist? A colleague of mine shared a powerful message with me this week that has literally changed lives. The ten promises below have been adapted from “The Optimist Creed,” which was developed by an organization called, Optimist International. I encourage you to print it out, stick it to your bathroom mirror or on the bulletin board at work, and read it every morning as you start your day.
I promise to be so strong that nothing can disturb my peace of mind.
I promise to talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person that I meet.
I promise to make all my friends feel like there is something in them.
I promise to look at the sunny side of everything and make my optimism come true.
I promise to think only of the best, to work only for the best, and expect only the best.
I promise to be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as I am about my own.
I promise to forget the mistakes of the past and press on the greater achievements of the future.
I promise to wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living person I meet a smile.
I promise to give as much time to the improvement of myself that I have no time to criticize others.
I promise to be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
Where has this creed been all my life? I feel like it perfectly summarizes who I strive to be as a person, and who I encourage you to be as well. We find our best selves when we are optimistic, and we see the world around us in a whole new light. I hope that it will bring positivity, joy, and success into your life – as it has in mine.
If you appreciate the Optimist Creed as much as I do, consider sharing the optimist creed with those around you. There’s a great YouTube video about it as well that would look very nice on your Facebook wall! Share the love. You know you want to.
Keep looking on the bright side, friends!
Photo credit: nejron
Tagged with: advice • attitude • balance • greatness • growth • happiness • happiness life • high expectations • law of attraction • living a purposeful life • low expectations • meaningful life • optimism bias • perseverance • self • self actualization • success tips • ted • well-being
Filed under: Self Development
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