Optimism during difficult and challenging times can feel impossible. Losing a job, a relationships that mattered to us, going through a divorce or a devastating life event can all bring up feelings of failure leaving you disappointed, demoralized and shaken to the core. No matter how many times you hear that you'll be fine or that time will heal your wounds, the responsibility to set yourself free from the emotional ties to pain lies in you. A big part of healing is how we perceive what happened and how that impacts how we see ourselves.
Guy Winch, Ph.D talks about wounds that are inflicted when we perceive we have failed at something, contributing to the challenges of seeing the glass "half-full":
"Failure makes our goals seem tougher and impacts our unconscious perceptions such that our goals seem further and more out of reach. This then makes our abilities seem weaker. Not only do our goals seem harder to reach but we see ourselves as less capable of reaching. Our motivation is then impacted negatively because we fear that once again, we will be unsuccessful. Think about the last bad relationship you got out of and telling yourself, "I won't do that again." We can become risk avoidant, meaning we stop taking risks, emotional or otherwise."
Change Your Perspective
Changing the lens we see the world through after a hardship isn't easy. Memories, triggers, and feelings of self-defeat can permeate our thinking. Dr. Winch offers ways to begin taking back control of our perspective and learning to be optimistic, in spite of any prevailing circumstance:
- Fight the distortions and recognize that failure distorts your perceptions about the situation and your capacity to address it. Don't buy into thinking you are incapable. Adopt a mindset of persistence and optimism and refuse to give up!
- Revive your self-worth - remind yourself of your strength. You have greatness within you! If you can't remember what your great qualities are, ask a friend or family to help you.
- What does success mean to you? In a relationship? In your next job? Reconnect with the reasons you are motivated in the first place. What are the good things that make you passionate about that endeavor?
- Be willing to take a risk, and many of them. No matter what you have gone through, who has hurt or left you, or the personal losses that seem insurmountable, you will always have to take risks in life. We gain resiliency when we learn to get back up after falling down. Is there a different way you can approach it? What can you do differently this time?
- Get creative. Creativity stimulates the brain in unique ways increasing feelings of well-being and self-confidence. Remind yourself of the things you do well and then, go do them!
- Let go of what you cannot control - you won't win! Focus your efforts on being more prepared next time and putting in the effort needed to be successful. How can you invest yourself better?
- Reframe the failure as a single incident. Avoid falling into the "this always happens to me" trap that leads to chronic pessimism. Think about how it could be different next time and how you will meet a similar challenge again.
"What we choose to embrace will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” ~ Howard Zinn