Although it is common sense, there is much research that shows responsibility, optimism and positive emotions can dramatically improve our life in many aspects. From the decisions we make, the opportunities we pursue and people we connect with, to sales we’re recording and the level of performance at work.
On the other side, negativity constricts thinking, puts us in a defensive crouch, and prevents us from seeing the bigger picture. Unfortunately, humans are born with a default to find the negative. It’s a survival instinct, the reason the species is still around. We survived because of a well-developed impulse to look out for trouble.
Today, a major part of humanity doesn’t face “life-or-death” issues on a daily basis, so it would be great if we make some adjustments to bring our ancient brains into the modern world. Optimism and responsibility might be key competencies that can help us experience positive emotions on a daily basis.
Responsibility and optimism are competencies
For most people, it’s clear that responsibility is competence. Parents, school, and society teach us to be responsible. Becoming responsible is part of growing up. It should be one of the differences between kids and adults. So, we learn through our life to become responsible. We develop this competency.
Many people believe that optimism is part of our personality or that it is affected by outside factors – like the economy or the result of an election. The truth is that optimism is not inherited, or it is not based on genetic makeup, but it is a competence that people can acquire and develop. The more optimistic we are, the higher quality of our life we experience.
“Researchers have tried to tease apart how optimism helps or hinders leaders at all levels in an organisation. Their findings helped me understand the nuances of this important skill. Yes, I said “skill.” People are not born optimists – a positive outlook is something you can develop, just as you can enhance physical skills such as swimming.”
– Daniel Goleman
Responsibility vs. Optimism
My life motto is “Dream Big & Act Smart”. Both responsibility and optimism strongly affect our ability to act. If we want to act smart, we need both optimism and responsibility. Since we talk about competencies we can demonstrate (or not) each of them in different situations. We can, contextually, demonstrate them separately or together. Let’s explore 4 different areas of Responsibility – Optimism matrix.
Complainer – This includes lots of complaining. It is a strategy of passive attitude toward problems, preferring to allow them to work themselves out. When we use this strategy we take the credit for good outcomes and blame other causes for bad outcomes.
Hippie – I call this area “hippie area”. High optimism without taking responsibility to move things forward. Often, when people picture optimists, they visualise an airy, lighthearted tree-hugger who is idealistic and unrealistic. Optimism without responsibility for outcomes might be useful as a short-term strategy in difficult times.
Workaholic – This area often includes lots of action and it misses sense of purpose. My experience shows that this is energetically very expensive strategy. I know many successful people who take on too much responsibility. Often even for things that are not under their control.
Dream Catcher – This is my favourite area. The more I manage to use this strategy in my life, I am more aligned with my purpose. Being optimistic in the sense of being purpose-driven, has lots of connections with reality. A purpose-driven strategy gives us a sense of control of our destiny, which makes us generally more positive.
Responsibility and optimism are the price of greatness
Be aware that these are only strategies and that it’s not wise to identify ourselves with a strategy. We can choose strategies that are most useful for a given moment. When it comes to success, have in mind wise words of George Bernard Shaw:
“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.”
So besides dreaming big, it is important to act smart as well. Dream Catcher strategy can be the difference that makes a difference.