Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How Optimistic Are You?

Those of us who favour looking at the bright side of life and seeing opportunities in less than ideal circumstances are prototypical optimists. Technically, optimism is the systematic tendency to expect the best possible outcomes. Some argue it’s merely a bias we’re hardwired to experience (see the Optimism Bias by Tali Sharot). Regardless of its’ roots, optimism has been associated with many benefits including healthand happiness, and even career success and job satisfaction.

So how optimistic are you? In a recent Life Strategies’ survey, 65% of respondents considered themselves optimists whereas only 2% of respondents considered themselves pessimists (i.e., having a systematic tendency to expect the worst possible outcomes). The remaining 33% saw themselves as realists (i.e., having a systematic tendency to expect the most likely outcome).

Those who identified as optimists preferred to see the positive in life, embracing change and uncertainty. Many noted positive expectations have lead to positive outcomes – consider the self-fulfilling prophecy where individuals will succeed because they believe they can.

Although only a few respondents identified as pessimists, reasons included focusing on the negative side, overanalyzing situations, and self-protection. Some of our pessimistic respondents realized this viewpoint was problematic; however, felt it was hard to change.

Some reasons why respondents identified as “realists” were a preference for logic and objectiveness, as well as a distaste for concepts such as destiny and luck. Realists saw this as a safer, middle-of-the-road choice; it’s a bit of both (i.e., not overly pessimistic or blindly optimistic). They also reflected on past experiences that have tainted their views of optimism, seeing realism as necessary to mediate both the good and the bad that life throws at them.

Respondents also highlighted strategies they use to stay optimistic in difficult times. Responses included:
  • Connecting with friends and family
  • Avoiding negative people
  • Engaging in positive self-talk
  • Adopting a more solution-focused mind frame
  • Setting priorities and goals
  • Maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle (e.g., getting enough sleep, eating well, enjoying hobbies/activities)
  • Getting outside and being active
  • Using relaxation meditation techniques
  • Appreciating what you’ve got
  • Recognizing things could be worse
  • Relying on one’s faith
  • Reframing negative experiences
  • Focussing on the learning
  • Reaching out for help when necessary
Luckily optimism can be learned; to strengthen your own optimism or adopt a more optimistic viewpoint on life, check out our tip sheet  on the topic.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Simple Things You Can Do To Support Cultural Diversity

Did you know? May 21st was World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.  Here are some suggestions for activities adapted from the Do One Thing For Diversity And Inclusion Facebook page:

1.  Visit an art exhibit/museum dedicated to other cultures.

2.  Invite people from your neighborhood with different cultural/religious backgrounds to share a meal with you.

3.  Rent a movie or read a book from a country/religion other than your own.

4.  Invite people from a different culture to share your customs.

5.  Read about the great thinkers from cultures other than your own (e.g. Confucius, Socrates, Avicenna, Ibn Khaldun, Aristotle, Ganesh, Rumi)

6.  Visit a place of worship different than yours; participate in the celebration.

7.  Learn about traditional celebrations from other cultures (e.g., Hanukkah, Ramadan, New Year's Eve celebrations of  Spain, or Qingming festival in China).

8.  Spread your own culture around the world through - see the  Do One Thing For Diversity And Inclusion Facebook page and learn about other cultures.

9.  Explore music of a different culture.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Clues to Work Satisfaction . . . and Dissatisfaction

If you find yourself visiting with colleagues, searching the web, posting to Facebook, or planning your next vacation while at work, you may be dissatisfied in your current role. In a recent study by Salary.com (check out study results via this very cool Infographic), the top time-wasting activities were using the Internet (48%), socializing with co-workers (33%), and handling personal business (30%). Not surprisingly, the top excuse for time wasters was lack of satisfaction at work (46%) with feeling underpaid (34%) coming a close second.

Take a moment to reflect on your work; ask yourself what’s working and what’s not with your day-to-day tasks, team members, supervisors/managers, compensation, and work-life balance. Strive, each day, to do what you can to maximize or take advantage of what’s working. Reflect on what’s not working – what can you do to facilitate change or make improvements?

Another strategy is to explore your Career Engagement or the emotional and cognitive connection you feel to your career (or specific role or set of tasks); full engagement is possible when capacity and challenge are in balance. However, if these are out of balance, disengagement will occur either through becoming overwhelmed (i.e., too much challenge for the available capacity) or underutilized (i.e., insufficient challenge for the available capacity). If you’re wasting time at work reflect on whether lack of career engagement is the cause.

Remember . . .
Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it they will want to come back and see you do it again and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do. ~Walt Disney