Optimism is good for your career and your health—but not all optimism is the same

Optimism is good for your career and your health—but not all
optimism is the same

With all the negativity in the news, it can be tough to stay optimistic. From layoffs and inflation to political polarization and global issues, there are plenty of reasons for concern. But optimism is possible—and it’s important for everything from your health and longevity to your happiness at work. Optimism is fuel for quality of life.

Interestingly though, optimism may not be what you think. Far from a Pollyanna vision of idealistic unreality, there are different types of optimism and ways you can increase your positivity in practical ways.

Optimism and satisfaction 

Optimism and satisfaction are related. The more you’re satisfied with where you are, the more you tend to believe things have gotten better over time and will continue on that trajectory, according to a study published in Psychological Science.

In addition, while Gallup has found that only 17% of people are happy with the direction of the country, 85% of people are satisfied with the direction of their personal lives. This is good news since happiness tends to have a spillover effect—when people around you are happier, it tends to affect you as well.

In their work, people are often happier than you may think. In fact, 85% of people find their work satisfying, according to a study by LiveCareer. Plus, 87% of people believe their work is an important part of their life, and 88% like their job.

The power of optimism

Positivity and optimism are also good for you. According to a sweeping study of over 70,000 people by Boston University, those who were more optimistic enjoyed 11% to 15% longer life spans and had lower incidences of disease. This was true regardless of age, diet, alcohol use, exercise, or education.

At work, when people feel more optimistic, they have better job performance and greater satisfaction with their work, according to a study in the Journal of Management. And additional research published in the Journal of Business Research found that when people are more optimistic, they have less stress and experience less conflict between their work lives and personal lives.

The different types of optimism

So, the power of optimism is clear, but optimism may be different than you assume. There are two kinds of optimism and one is more impactful than the other. Complacent optimism is when you wait for good things to happen. You are hopeful and believe they will occur, but you are more passive overall. On the other hand, conditional optimism is when you take action to create something better in the future.

Conditional optimism is also related to a growth mindset in which you believe you can learn, improve and grow—rather than believing your capabilities are set or static. Conditional optimism, including a growth mindset, tend to be more empowering and more associated with happiness and fulfillment, because they reinforce the control you have about how things go. Taking a conditionally-optimistic approach can keep you motivated to try new things and persevere to find solutions to tough problems.

How to master optimism

So what can you do to be more optimistic and take the reins in conditional optimism? A study by Integral demonstrates how positivity at work is correlated with certain behaviors and beliefs, and these can translate into pragmatic action.

Here are six things you can do to master optimism:

  1. Express gratitude

One of the first things you can do to foster your optimism is to express gratitude. When people are more appreciative of their circumstances, they tend to be happier and more joyful, but in addition, the Integral study found that when people were more positive, 33% also experienced gratitude, and 76% believed in their colleagues’ levels of commitment.

Be intentional about expressing gratitude. Reflect on what you like about your job and recognize coworkers when you appreciate their effort, the ideas they contributed in a meeting, or the help they gave you on a project.

Gratitude tends to be most powerful when you’re grateful for people, circumstances, experiences, or even your own capabilities. Being grateful for material possessions is good, but being grateful for your circumstances is even better.

When you’re grateful, you’ll also tend to contribute to a culture where people reinforce each other. And you’ll probably feel more valued in turn. This is aligned with the Integral study in which those who were positive also felt valued (24% of people).

  1. Be proud

Another way to nurture your optimism is to embrace your capabilities and contributions. One of the hallmarks of burnout is feeling ineffective, so when you remind yourself of all you do well, you’re building toward a better work experience.

In the Integral study, when people were positive, 87% believed they contributed to their organization’s success and 21% experienced pride. In addition, 37% were confident.

Of course, you’ll want to stop short of being arrogant. People appreciate working with others who are great performers and who have strong points of view, but they also want to know you value them and that you don’t believe you have all the answers. You want to be confident without being arrogant—feeling good about all you do brilliantly, and being humble about all that you don’t have figured out.

  1. Seek opportunities to grow

Another way to emphasize your optimism is to seek opportunities to grow in your career. When you learn, stretch, and try new things, you’re more likely to feel happy and fulfilled. This is because you are inviting new and stimulating experiences and taking control of where you’re going next. The Integral study found when people were positive, 76% believed they were in control of their own career success and 17% felt empowered.

Reflect on what you love to do and learn from those who have similar roles, so you can determine how you can take the next step. Initiate relationships with mentors who can coach you and build strong networks with people who can give you advice and support. Sign up for a class or shadow a teammate in a project, so you can continually advance your skills.

All of these will get you noticed by those who can influence your success, and they will also help you feel positive because you’re taking steps to create your own growth.

  1. Stick with it

A lot of people have left their jobs and taken new jobs over the past year or so. A study by Monster found that 41% of people had quit their job, but 72% regretted it. In addition to the value of trying something new, it can also be wise to maintain your current role and grow within your present organization. When people felt more positive, 69% reported they were unlikely to leave their job.

It makes sense when you’re hopeful and optimistic, you’re committing to making things work where you are, and believe you can have a positive influence. By staying where you are, you can tap into the networks you’ve created and leverage the credibility you’ve built.

Of course, if things aren’t going well, you want the option to move on. But you can consider two things when making a choice to stay: the size of the issue and the size of your influence. If you have a lot of impact, you may choose to stay and improve the culture, solve the problem, or find a better way to serve customers. On the other hand, if you see that issues in your organization are systemic and you don’t believe you can have a lot of influence, you may choose to move to a company where you can have a greater impact.

Either way, take a hopeful approach, because when you do, you’re more likely to make decisions which positively affect the future for yourself and others.

  1. Focus on the future

Optimism is ultimately a future-focused mentality since it involves thinking about how things will always be improving. In the Integral study, 37% of people who were positive believed the best days were ahead of them in their careers, 37% were motivated, and 22% were excited.

Consider all you’ve learned over the last couple years and value the resilience you’ve built through tough times. Apply these to the future by making plans for how you’ll advocate for a promotion or a pay raise. Take action to invest in your relationships both inside and outside of work. Take the opportunity to explore volunteer work or health regimens based on your priorities for both work and life.

Focusing on the future can be motivating and the more specific you are in your plans and the habits you’ll build, the more likely you’ll be to accomplish what you want.

  1. Refresh and renew

When things feel like they are upside down and inside out, it’s a perfect time to regroup. Avoid marinating in bad news and empower yourself to take positive steps to refresh and renew your work and your life.

Conditional optimism can offer just the boost you need.

* This article was originally published here