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Ten Tips for Building Realistic Optimism

October 4, 2012


“Optimism is true moral courage.”

– Sir Ernest Shackleton, Antarctic Explorer

Optimism is not about whether you see the cup half full or half empty. Realistic Optimism is something you do—a particular way that you explain to yourself the events that happen to you, and then choose actions to take in response to these events.

Are you a Realistic Optimist? Read our ten tips to find out:

1.  Selective Focus: Where the pessimist see problems, the optimist sees challenges. Realistic Optimists choose to focus primarily on thoughts, events, and interpretations that induce constructive activity.

2.  Set Realistic Goals and Standards: Realistic Optimists do not try to be perfect. They strive to improve, not to achieve perfection.

3.  Keep Events in Proportion: Realistic Optimists do their best to keep difficult events and circumstances in proportion. When faced with a problem, challenge, or obstacle, they are able to reframe the situation by approaching it with a calm, determined, and problem-solving attitude.  

4.  Emphasize the Positive: Realistic Optimists make a concerted effort to celebrate both their own and others successes. When given a complement, they simply say thank you.

5.  Humor: Humor is a critical piece of Realistic Optimism. Humor can be seen as both a cause and consequence of optimism.

6.  Rational: Realistic Optimists see reality as it is—not as how he or she wants it to be.  The Realistic Optimist applies reason to find ways of assessing and achieving goals. Blind, wishful optimism is an irrational optimism or faith in an unreal world.

7.  Self-Improving: Optimists recognize the possibilities for continued growth and self-improvement. The Realistic Optimist believes that staying the same leads to stagnation and falling behind in today’s world of accelerated change.

8.  Experimental: Realistic Optimism requires actively searching for and creating novel approaches.  The Realistic Optimist evaluates each idea and each method on its merits, being quick to try new approaches where they appear to offer advantages.

9.  Personal Responsibility: Realistic Optimism requires an understanding of the part we play in creating the results we want. The Realistic Optimist realizes that goals can be reliably achieved only through personal effort. 

10.  Selecting Environment: Realistic Optimists find themselves attracted to people and environments that inspire, support, and assist. The Realistic Optimist will not only surround himself with those who agree with him, but also with those who will constructively criticize his goals and methods. 

For more on creating Realistic Optimism, leading by example, building morale, and communicating effectively, explore Linkage’s Leadership Academy, a four-day leadership training experience designed to prepare high-potentials for next generation leadership.

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