Stop Punishing Your Optimism. Seriously.

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You know how it goes: everything is going really well, you feel great, things are happening, you’re creating awesomesauce by all the small steps you’re taking, things are moving forward in exactly the way you wanted them to when you set out, self efficacy is high and optimism is through the roof.

You’re getting on with it , in the flow, cruising along and trusting your own instinct. Well done you.


In it creeps.

The doubt.

The thoughts of ‘what if this doesn’t work?’

How? When not two minutes before everything was okay?

Answer: a belief. Or a few of them screwing you up in the here and now.

But how? 

Oh, a few failed attempts in the past, a bad experience of the past, people questioning what your doing and spending ( wayyyyy too much) time in the company of people who think you’re on a hiding to nothing are all fuelling the beliefs that support pessimism not optimism.

How does this punishment behave?

You sanction your optimism, you begin to give yourself the red light. You stop. Even though it was go go go green light that felt good you slow it down. Stopping. Not driving anywhere.

You suffer and torture yourself, putting your own self on trial. How dare you think it would be a success? Failure may still happen. What’s the point anyway?  Urgh! 

You restrain yourself. Where your creativity was flowing, the punishment wipes this out, you hold back. You stop putting out what you knew was the right thing to do.

Stopping the punishment

Look at your beliefs. I know, I know, not those bloody beliefs again. There is a limiting one in there somewhere. Dig it up. Question it. Explore if it’s true.

The fact you have believed the outcome/goal/end result is possible you’re playing well.

The only way any of us can know what is possible for us is when we achieve it. We don’t know what we are capable of. You can’t prove you will never reach a goal or outcome, the only truth is you haven’t achieved it yet.

Get honest. Be truthful to yourself about the end result. Understand that everything has an outcome, there is no right or bad outcome. Optimism is not the end result. Optimism is the state that says the end result is worth it.

Watch Your Language. Changing your language changes your thinking which changes your beliefs. Begin by not giving sanction (or saying) what isn’t possible.

“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”  Mohandaz Karamchnd Gandhi

Do you punish your optimism? Do you know why?

Stop it. Please. Seriously. I say be realistically positive!

Update: After posting this post on Facebook Jennie at JJHummingbird pointed me to this video. It’s a TED Talk by Tali Sharlot called the Optimism Bias.

Sharlot asks the questions, ‘Is optimism good for us?’ and ‘How do we maintain optimism in the face of reality?’. She argues that some people say no and choose pessimism over optimism so that they won’t be hurt or shocked if they fail, ‘If we don’t expect greatness we won’t be disappointed’.

She then flips this and says that people with higher optimism/expectations whether they succeed or fail always feel better and that regardless of the outcome, to us all feeling of anticipation makes us happy (5.28 minutes in). 

I am soooooo Optimism Biased with a hint of reality.You?


  1. says

    I am guilty of doubt like this ad it can be debilitating! This typically occurs halfway through a project, be it a novel I’m writing, a oil painting I’m struggling with or even in the middle of an exercise routine. It can be jarring. I feel it creep in just as you illustrated. I’m in tune to it now, though! I’m on it before it can latch its ugly fangs into my mojo! I usually keep it at bay by reciting this mantra “I’m healthy, I’m alive, therefore I an do anything.”

    Lovely post. Cheers!

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