Optimism isn’t just about what somebody believes:
It’s about what they do.
Here are the key actions of an optimistic individual.
1) Giving more than they get
This is the first key action of the eternal optimist:
They give more than they get.
This may be literal in terms of giving away material assistance and direct aid, or it could be in the sense of giving time, energy and help to others.
When you give more than you get, it expresses a bold and extremely powerful reality:
“I have more than enough, and I am willing and enthusiastic about being a net positive in the lives of others.”
2) Investing in the future
The optimist invests in the future.
This could be a literal investment such as in a stock or a business venture, or it could be in terms of helping out in their community, spending time with their kids or devoting time to those they love.
Highly optimistic individuals aren’t any different than the rest of us, they are just more involved and determined.
Investing in the future can be done in a million ways:
Maybe you plant a tree, maybe you clean up trash from the side of the road.
The ways that an optimist decides to believe in the future could even involve going back to school or retraining to transition into a new career.
3) Starting new ventures
The optimist is also someone who’s not afraid to start something new and take a risk.
That could be a new business, a new relationship or moving to a new city.
It could be going back to college as I mentioned above, or it might be partnering up with somebody to launch a new conceptual art museum.
Whatever it ends up being, the optimist is willing to take a chance.
He or she knows that many new ventures fail, so this isn’t about blind naivety.
It’s about the simple understanding that if you never take a risk you’ll never score big or make a real imprint on the world.
4) Empathy for others
Optimists have empathy for others as much as possible.
The reason this is optimistic is that it’s built on the faith that caring about others doesn’t mean there won’t be enough care for you.
It’s a willingness to project energy outwards and give rather than take.
It’s a faith that focusing on other people won’t end up depriving you of what you need and the attention you deserve.
Empathy for others is almost always a big part of the optimist’s worldview and daily actions.
5) Embracing their own shadow
We all have repressed fears, desires and parts of ourselves and our past that we haven’t fully acknowledged.
But optimists do their best to integrate their shadow.
They are honest with themselves first and foremost and respect the process for getting in touch with difficult emotions and experiences.
They don’t feel shame over troubles or difficult emotions:
These are part of life and they are also part of us.
These emotions need to flow and be accepted and understood.
Rejecting or “dividing” difficult emotions as foreign or “other” actually puts us into a state of shame and guilt, locking us in a cycle of unworthiness.
The optimist accepts suffering and internal struggles as part of life.
6) Living in the moment
As much as possible, highly optimistic people try their best to live in the moment.
They follow the advice of spiritual teachers like Eckhart Tolle, who advise people to realize the power of now.
After all, as Tolle teaches, the past was once now and the future will one day be now.
So what do we really have?
By tapping into this power and trying our best to live in it fully and avoid the tricks of the monkey mind, the optimist becomes more powerful and effective.
He or she avoids the trap of what Tolle calls “psychological time,” which is living in painful or joyful feelings about the past or future and thereby being seduced by our deluded egoic tendencies away from the enormous reality and potential of the present.
7) Reframing difficult situations
By living as much as possible in the present, the optimist engages in a kind of situational alchemy.
Alchemy was the ancient practice of trying to turn lead and base metals into gold, but it’s also a symbol for the transmutation of less conscious and frustrating situations into conscious and meaningful situations.
Reframing or alchemizing pain does not mean the pain goes away:
It means that even if the pain increases, it becomes meaningful and for a reason instead of useless suffering and misery.
If the optimist gets badly injured, for example, while training for a marathon and has their hopes dashed that they had been thinking of for months, they feel understandably upset.
But they reframe the present reality and choose to use this time bedridden to read up on inspiring biographies of athletes who’ve overcome injury.
They choose to use this time to respect their body and feel the pain of the injury without feeling bitter or taking it personally. It’s a lesson in patience and the limits each of us has.
This brings me to the next point…
8) Finding value in hard times
When hard times do come, the optimist does their best to find value in them.
As in the above example, they try their best to derive some value or worth out of whatever setbacks are experienced.
This doesn’t mean the highly optimistic individual is always smiling like a Cheshire cat or quoting inspiration verses.
They swear, cry and make mistakes like any of us.
But the inner reality of a highly optimistic person is based around finding value instead of rejecting pain.
The optimist deals in what is rather than it what they wish was or wish wasn’t.
“Optimists also find good in hardships, obstacles, and failures, because these are the situations that give you strength and resilience.”
9) Avoiding complaining
As much as possible, highly optimistic people avoid complaining.
That doesn’t mean they don’t want to complain.
It means they consciously choose to not complain as much as possible.
Because when we verbalize our dissatisfaction and anger we actually feed into a pretty disempowering feedback loop.
“I hate this city!” creates a cycle of hating this city and also contributes to what psychologists call confirmation bias.
We’re sure we hate a city and then we start seeing even more reasons why this city is the worst place ever.
10) Accepting the limits of control
There’s a lot in life that’s simply not in our control.
That’s a fact.
Optimistic people accept this and focus on what is within our control.
First among what’s in our control is ourselves.
The optimist focuses on self-discipline and self-awareness, because these are the twin keys to a powerful and effective life.
Instead of cursing fortune or praising a stroke of good luck, optimists try to stay humble and realize that we’re all only one great or horrible event away from having our lives changed forever.
Good luck isn’t something we can rely on, and future tragedy isn’t something that’s worth spending our life dreading.
For now it’s all about focusing on what’s in our control and gaining discipline and peace of our own mind and actions.
11) Discovering doors where others see locks
Highly optimistic people tend to also be highly perceptive.
They see doors where others only see locks.
Even when one avenue of opportunity shuts down, they see another that could open up.
The optimist is a realist: he or she can admit that things are bad in the present moment.
But to lose hope for the entire future is not a temptation the optimist falls for.
The future remains unknown:
Even prisoners unjustly locked up for years sometimes get free…
Even the loneliest hearts sometimes find love…
Never say never!
12) Finding win-win solutions
Optimists are interested in win-win solutions.
They understand that a lot of life can become very competitive and harsh, but they also know that it isn’t always that way.
In fact, many of humanity’s greatest achievements and moments of progress have occurred as a result of collaboration and partnership.
For this reason the optimist is always open to working together and finding a win-win situation in whatever form it takes.
Pedal to the metal…
Optimists follow one simple rule that others often forget: they keep going.
Many of us experience disappointment and setbacks and we stop and throw up our hands…
What the hell am I supposed to do now?
The optimist is already moving. He or she is already processing setbacks and looking at how to overcome obstacles ahead.
He or she is already living in the moment and pressing the pedal to the metal.