Leadership Habits That Help Build Optimism

By Harvard Business Review
May 22, 2019

 An antidote to chronic stress is cultivating a positive mindset — and it serves everyone well over the course of their careers.

In a report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 75% of workers say they are more stressed than the previous generation, and 40% place themselves on the high end of the stress spectrum.

Chronic stress is a trap we’ve fallen into — one we can get out of by cultivating an optimistic mindset.

Beyond stress, researchers have found that optimists do better during their careers, making more money and more likely to be promoted.

Here are some habits to help build optimism:

Focus on what’s working: Start the day by practicing gratitude. List three things you’re grateful for, and why. This two-minute daily practice rewired elderly pessimists to become more optimistic after just two weeks.

Seek progress, not perfection: Don’t wait until you’ve perfected the plan. Whether you’re trying to switch roles at work or launch a new idea, waiting for perfection can be your greatest enemy. Set a meaningful goal, and take the smallest measurable step toward achieving that goal. That win will propel continued positive action as your brain will get a boost from perceiving progress.

Meaningfully connect with others: Send a two-minute email each day to someone new, praising or thanking them. These notes can brighten the day of family members, colleagues or friends, and they’re also good for you. Your brain starts to recognize more deeply all the people who care about you. Social connection is the greatest predictor of happiness, and it is strongly correlated with optimism.

Copyright 2019 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

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