A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty – Winston Churchill
Several months ago, I made a decision to consciously approach challenges in life from a perspective of optimism. As opposed to immediately focusing on the negative aspects of a particular situation, event, or obstacle, I would opt to instead identify opportunities and positive outcomes first. This isn’t to say I delude myself into ignoring the existence of the negatives – identifying potential pitfalls is essential to crafting effective solutions and avoiding repeating the mistake – just that I first consider the positives. The benefits of having done so have been overwhelming: challenges no longer appear insurmountable, deviations from “the plan” are tolerable, and once closed doors are now wide open. Most importantly, I’ve both enabled and rapidly accelerated my personal feedback loop, learning from lessons I might have otherwise stubbornly avoided.
Instead of thinking “I have nothing in common with ____” I think “what can I learn from our differences or what can I teach them?“. Instead of “this meeting is a waste of time” I think “certainly I can take one lesson from this or identify one thing I might have otherwise overlooked“. “This is a chance to double-down on my efforts and move forward” instead of “I’ve screwed this up so badly I’ll never recover”. “I can” instead of “I’m not good enough”. You get the idea.
The key to this strategy is a willingness to admit fault; check your pride and ego at the door. Every misstep represents a learning opportunity, and without admitting you screwed up or your idea didn’t work you can’t possibly learn, grow, and better prepare for the next challenge. Viewing setbacks as opportunities for a fresh start (armed with new information) both prevents wasting time by dwelling on the mistake and helps to focus your full attention on either the next task or a re-attempt of the previous. If you find your negative thoughts and doubts materializing into reality, perhaps you too can benefit from a shift in perspective towards the optimistic.