I want you to imagine that you are a 24 year old graduate going for job interviews. In this instance, you are being interviewed by a multinational who takes you to the next stage- completing a range of psychometric assessments followed by an interview with a psychologist. Imagine if you will, that this psychologist starts his interview with you by saying you are ‘too optimistic’, that you are a ‘Pollyanna’, that ‘you are unrealistic in seeing the world in such as positive light’, claiming there is something really wrong with you.

How would you feel? Well, this scenario happened to me back in the mid 1980s.  My sunny, optimistic disposition was deemed a fatal career flaw by this psychologist. WHAT? I was shocked and initially really upset by his analysis. Why was this a problem? What was wrong with me? Then I thought “Well, stuff you. You’re not going to get the better of me. I’m going to carry on being optimistic about the future and find better pathways forward for myself and my career” and the rest is history.

Thanks to ongoing research, we now know a lot more about the power of optimism and its effects on people, teams, businesses and societies. 

Some of the advantages of being optimistic

  • Innovation: 85% of optimists approach a problem by looking at it from different angles versus 26% of pessimists – this leads to the exposure of more opportunities
  • 69% of optimists are able to find the good in even the most disagreeable of people versus 19% of pessimists
  • The link between optimism and longevity is strong (Dr. Carol Graham, Leo Pasvolsky Senior Fellow, Brookings Institute)
  • An optimistic spouse (or partner) is better for your health. (University of Michigan)
  • Optimists are more likely to eat a healthy diet, have a healthy body mass index, not smoke, and exercise regularly than their pessimistic counterparts.
  • Optimists start more businesses because they see opportunity where others see uncertainty and despair
  • Optimists usually make better leaders because they are often inspiring communicators, show a pathway forward to the future, see the bigger picture and elicit human effort [1]
  • Optimists are usually able to keep things in perspective and limit unnecessary catastrophising

We also know a lot about the effects of negativity on humans. And it seems that negativity is dominating our lives with unhelpful effects. Steven Pinker, a Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, linguist and best-selling author, cites in his most recent book “Enlightenment Now”, that in the 1970s the news media had about 50-50 good news stories to bad, whereas now the news media (which is everywhere 24/7) is presenting much more bad news stories, upwards of 80% airtime, which is really bringing people down.  

Dave Hollis, just retired from Disney Studios, says that “People are hungry for stories about #optimism and hope”.

So where are these stories in our daily lives and in our businesses?

I don’t know you, but my team and I, together with Victor Perton, want to see more optimism in Australian businesses, in the media and in our daily lives.

Quite frankly, we’ve become frustrated and rather annoyed at the constant bombardment of negative media news cycles, the over-emphasis on Risk & Cost Management in business, and the stalling of progress through fear and uncertainty taking the lead in our daily lives, so we decided to take decisive action. Especially because there are so many good news stories, great opportunities, ideas and initiatives out there that often go unrecognised.

I don’t want that psychologist who disparaged my sunny, optimistic disposition, to win.

Which is why we are encouraging people to limit their news media diet and why we have a saying, “Watch who you let near your mind” because if we are not careful we can shut down and close ourselves off to opportunity which can lead to the ‘Dark Ages’, and who wants to go back there?

We understand that humans naturally tend towards risk aversion; however, if we create the space to ask ‘What’s possible?’, ‘What if?’, ‘Why not?’ and explore opportunities, go beyond our traditional boundaries and look at what we CAN DO, good things happen.

That is why we have put together a team of specialist professionals who are committed and dedicated to bringing Purposeful Optimism & Opportunity as a way of life to organisations, communities and societies. Because we know that when we band together around Purposeful Optimism & Opportunity, we can move forward with positive momentum and create more opportunities.

Purposeful Optimism & Opportunity Movement

The Purposeful Optimism & Opportunity Movement is underpinned by a philosophy of optimism and opportunity, leading to mutual prosperity. It delivers a practical process that opens minds and helps create healthy dialogue around innovation, optimism and opportunity. It is designed to deliver effective, sustainable change that delivers organisational and community prosperity and success. It’s a process that creates a culture of opportunity and focused can-do optimism within organisations, with clients and communities.

Our philosophy is that optimism is ignited and thrives when real opportunities for growth and prosperity become visible.

Our Guiding Principle

It all starts with opportunity. Opportunity makes it possible to do good things. Optimism is ignited when real opportunities for growth and prosperity become clear to us. Different from blind optimism, Purposeful Optimism is built on substance: derived from strategy and underpinned by well-resourced people who are enabled to pursue opportunity and do something meaningful with others. Optimism keeps the light of opportunity glowing even when the world seems dark.

Think about it.

How differently would businesses operate if they were powered by Purposeful Optimism & Opportunity?

We believe that by choosing Purposeful Optimism & Opportunity you will be able to:

  • create a climate of opportunity and optimism that allows people to flourish and bring their best selves and ideas to work
  • drive more innovation, better sales and revenue outcomes by cultivating a can-do culture and finding hidden opportunities previously missed
  • embed a clear sense of purpose and agency that enables your people to pursue opportunity and build an optimistic, sustainable and prosperous future

Here are some powerful quotes by some influential people from Victor Perton’s book “The Optimists’ Voices” illustrating the need and power of optimism:

 “Optimism is at the very core of leadership. The best leaders I have encountered in my career are those that remain optimistic – and ambitious – for their organisations even in the face of great adversity. They are those whose optimism enables them to recognise the potential in others, and help them develop to be leaders themselves.”
Dominic Barton, Global CEO, McKinsey

“We can’t have innovation without optimism – hope and confidence about the future. We now think of innovation in economic terms – about the wealth it will create – but innovation is creativity, it is doing and believing in making life better. Innovation is, in turn, optimism.” Cecilia Hilder, Western Sydney University

“Optimism is the triumph of hope over fear, of truth over deception, but it must be grounded in reality.  Optimism without realism is just a dream; hope alone is not a strategy.   Detailed planning of scenarios, laying out of plans towards an ambitious goal, and then inspiring a team to climb that hill together with passion and a mission greater than oneself – that combination is a sure path to success.” Mick Farrell, Resmed

“People talk about tenacity and resilience and strength of character but it is optimism that drives behaviour when on some days it would be easier to say: ‘Stop – I give up, it’s too hard’. Optimism is believing in the impossible and then taking the steps to make it possible.” Professor Jane Burns, Professor of Innovation and Industry at the University of Sydney

Please join Victor, my team and me in sharing the powerful and positive messages and action of Purposeful Optimism & Opportunity Movement.

Please feel free to share this article with anyone looking to build positive and optimistic business cultures, enhance customer loyalty, grow sales, deliver great customer service and sell better. It could be your team and colleagues, business partners, friends, clients, suppliers or people you know in your community or business networks.

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2012/08/08/5-reasons-why-optimists-make-better-leaders/#7b1425504e07

Remember everybody lives by selling something.
Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au


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