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Cheer Up! 5 Surefire Ways to Boost Your Optimism

Finding the path to positive will make you more successful in the long run.
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What's more optimistic than naming your company Life Is Good? Bert and John Jacobs, co-founders of Life Is Good, adopted the corporate slogan "spreading the power of optimism," and it is optimism that fuels the T-shirt, apparel, and accessories company with sales of more than $100 million. Feel-good marketing strategy or solid science?

Research confirms that optimism helps one succeed. Says psychologist Susan Segerstrom, "Optimists are more successful because they are willing to overcome obstacles and problem-solve, which are critical skills to advancement in any work environment. And on an interpersonal level, optimists are easy and enjoyable to work with."

The good news is, optimism is a learned skill. I figured out a long time ago when I was starting my own business that if I wanted to encourage productivity in my staff and inspire confidence in my clients, I had better project my sense of optimism about our work. Of course, it wasn't always easy--the tribulations of a startup can weigh on the most resolute optimist. Along the way, however, I learned to stop negative thoughts in their tracks and reframe them with optimism. You can, too. Here's how:

1. Don't be hard on yourself when you get into a funk.

"The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize," said the late, great art critic Robert Hughes. It's part of human nature to get frustrated-- it's just not a habit you want to cultivate.

2. Recommit to your goal.

If something didn't work, get rid of it, but I don't throw in the towel. Psychologists know that we can get through these periods with conscious effort and improve our happiness quotient in the process. 

3. Douse pessimist talk. 

I am not talking about just giving yourself a personal pep talk. It's about understanding that past failures don't determine the future. An impartial analysis of what went wrong often reveals clues to what might work the next time around. By seeing failure as a temporary condition, we find the will to move on to new solutions, further research, and more questioning.

4. Do more of what you love and less of what you don't.

Incorporate what lights you up during the day, and do as little as possible of what dims your lights. It seems like a small change, but it’s not. Over time, this makes you happier and encourages you to take more positive actions toward your goals. You will experience less frustration and more personal positive reinforcement.

5. See above. Repeat.

Surround yourself with reinforcement in the form of inspiring books and like-minded friends and environments, and so on. Thoughts have a frequency, your feelings have vibrations, and when you are vibrating to create expansion, it becomes the truth. This is not magical thinking. If you can visualize what you want, the first step, the limits you've placed on yourself begin to disappear.

Optimists see positive outcomes as a natural state of affairs and negative outcomes as temporary or isolated events that can be prevented in the future by taking a different tack or trying something new. 

"Optimism can take you anywhere," espouses Life Is Good co-founder Jacobs. 

IMAGE: Youngna Park / Flickr.com
Last updated: Jun 16, 2014

DEBRA KAYE | Columnist | partner, Lucule

Debra Kaye is a Partner at the innovation consultancy Lucule and a former CEO of TBWAItaly. Her book, Red Thread Thinking: Weaving Together Connections that Lead to Brilliant Ideas and Profitable Innovation, was The Washington Post's Leadership Book of the Week. A frequent commentator on American Public Radio's "Marketplace," she also writes for Fast Company and is a sought after speaker at venues such as SXSW.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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