If you’re just joining us now, be sure to check out Part 1, where we explored the inherent optimism of designers, developers and managers, and what specific elements of our professions increase our sense of optimism. In Part 2 of this series we talked with real people in development and management roles to learn what leads them to feel optimistic about their work life and projects. Part 3 continued our exploration of optimism as we checked in with some designers to see what makes them feel hopeful about their projects and day to day. Part 4 covered the dark side – how people feel and act when faced with the factors that discourage optimism rather than foster it.
Walking the Walk
So until now we’ve only talked about optimism, right? Let’s put it into practice. How do you cultivate a positive attitude when dealing with the hectic pace, stressful situations and the shear distraction of today’s lifestyles? Glad you asked!
1. Take inventory
Stop, breathe and make a list of all the good things about your life. One by one, focus on what makes your job worth doing, what brings you joy at home, and the people inside and outside work who inspire and support you. What milestones are you looking forward to, and which have you already achieved? Sometimes it’s easy to forget how good you really have it, and a simple and honest review of your circumstances may clear the fog and reveal a pretty nifty landscape indeed.
Next, list out all your grievances. Add to the naughty list that client who never listens to your ideas, and write down the many ways Joe from accounting chews too loudly. Don’t edit yourself here – if it bugs you, jot it down. This list is more useful than you might think in building optimism. It’s what you’ll reflect on in a moment, gazing through what I like to call the ‘first world filter.’
2. Reach Out
Humans are a communal species. By and large we do better with others around instead of going it on our own. Empathy is a powerful tonic, and sharing your tales of wonder and woe (ie. the good and bad, the ups and downs) with other folks has several built-in rewards. You’ll build better relationships, get some perspective when hearing about the challenges others face, and hopefully inspire someone else who’s slogging through their own Fire Swamp, battling Rodents of Unusual Size.
3. Harness Your Little Green Monster
It’s normal to be envious of coworkers and friends who achieve great things or seem to live a charmed life. However, it’s not healthy or productive to dwell on it, thinking how lucky they are and how you’re not as fortunate/connected/blessed.
Instead of living in a jealous fog, channel your energy towards building your own success. Envious of your pal who’s winning awards or making bank with their new novel? Write a book! Can’t fathom how your coworker has 10k Twitter followers and you have 200? Learn how to better market yourself, how to network and grow your personal brand.
Use your friends and neighbors as the higher bar you strive to reach.
4. Listen Up and Look Around
It’s amazing what you hear when you start to pay attention. For example, there was a time I grew frustrated with what I perceived as a lack of opportunities to be creative. (crazy, I know!)
I resolved to open myself up to anything that presented itself, regardless of how it might fit what I envisioned for creative outlets. WHAM! Suddenly it seemed I had opportunities coming from all directions – I had too many to participate in and had to turn some down. Did the creative forces of the universe turn on a dime? No, of course not. I simply started paying attention to what the universe what trying to tell me.
5. Accept that you control your destiny
It’s absolutely useless to blame anyone for your circumstances in life. Sure, that cabbie who didn’t stop for you this morning and made you late – that’s his fault right? Well, no. You could have gotten up earlier, or set up a carpool, or well… bought a bike.
Choices you make every day, either consciously or unconsciously, define who you are and the world you create for yourself. Make good choices.
6. Be happy
Consciously see the world through a positive lens. Practicing this single step will make an astounding difference, even if you’re challenged in making process via other methods. Seriously, it’s that simple an effective – give it a shot.
It’s my belief and sincere hope that you’ll find value in practicing these habits, and that you’ll find yourself experiencing a brighter outlook in your day job and at home as a result.
Stay on the bright side…
Note: Also published on www.giantux.com.