let's be real - It's not easy to just 'be' optimistic

A Business Professional in one of my Leadership Workshops said, “Joanna, I feel strong, clear, rational and optimistic one day, and then knocked off-center the next. How do I remain optimistic despite all the challenges at work?”

Optimism is “the ability to remain positive despite setbacks” as defined by the EQ-i 2.0 Assessment I use to help Leaders increase awareness of their current strengths and opportunities in effectively managing their emotions while under stress. When we’re optimistic, it helps us persevere, to be motivated and to inspire others.

But let’s be real – it’s not always easy to just BE optimistic.

After the workshop, I went to the Octopus Garden in Toronto to practice yoga. This is what I like to do after a day at work because it helps me to connect and reflect. I was pretty excited when it came time to set up for Vrikshasana (standing tree pose) where you ground yourself on one foot, while placing the sole of the other foot above or below the knee of your standing leg and your arms rise up to the sky. I was excited for this pose because I just wanted to do something I was already good at. There’s comfort in that.

So what happened during my very best pose? I FELL… not the dainty kind of tapping the raised foot to the ground type-thing. I mean I fell right into the person beside me and knocked them and their metallic water bottle to the ground. The crash made so much awful noise in an otherwise tranquil space that more people lost focus and fell out of their pose too. I was horrified! I’ve NEVER seen anyone fall down in yoga … till now. As a recovering perfectionist (thank you Brené Brown), I took a deep breath, got back up and kept going, despite my face flushing red. It came time to lie down for Savasana (corpse pose) at the end of class, and here’s what the teacher said:

“Whatever happened, whatever didn’t happen… let it go. Why is it that one day you feel the postures are easy and another day it feels challenging? Yoga is a daily practice. Enlightenment is a daily practice.Health is a daily practice. Contentment is a daily practice.” 

My takeaway is that optimism is also a daily practice. Some days it just doesn’t seem so easy to naturally wake up, leap out of bed, see the positive in everything, and stay optimistic. So have patience with yourself. 

As long as we continue our practice, we will find the positive, the clarity, the strength and the optimism again, and again, and again. Maybe not the second you open your eyes, but maybe you will find it during your practice, or in my case, during the fall. 

Here are just some of the things I do to practice optimism:·     

  • Write a list of what brings you bliss and do more of THAT·     
  • Let yourself be real – feel what you need to feel, be patient with yourself, and let the emotions give you data about your values and boundaries·     
  • Read positive stories, books, movies (i.e. The Buddha’s Brain by Dr. Rick Hanson is my favourite book)·     
  • Have positive visual cues around your space (ex. My sheets even have positive messages)·     
  • Reach out to people who tend to seek the positive (your network, community, friends, family, TED Talks, Influencers)·     
  • Replace negative thoughts with gratitude – you will always find what you seek·     
  • Tell someone how much you appreciate them and why·     
  • Volunteer·     
  • Breathe deep, juicy, full breaths·     
  • Go outside·     
  • Travel
  • Yoga, spin class and other forms of exercise always make me feel better – even when I fall 

We’d love to hear from you about how you practice optimism. So please comment or reach out to: joanna@kirkeleadership.com any time. Sending you my best, every damn day.