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Intentional Living: Optimism

Every day, we wake up to a world full of new opportunities and challenges. For many, finding a sense of purpose by maintaining optimism can be both a guiding light and a source of strength. Through this blog series, we'll explore the importance of understanding what gives us meaning, serving as a foundation for optimism and resilience.


Why Meaning Matters

A family gathered for a barbecue
Anxiety often tries to drown my feeling of purpose; being with my family motivates me to keep trying.

Our purpose in life provides us with a compass, pointing us in the direction we need to go. When we have a clear sense of why we're moving in a certain direction, the effort we put into overcoming obstacles feels worthwhile. This clarity helps us persevere, even when growth is uncomfortable.


"The meaning we have for the purpose of our life. We must take time to reflect on the legacy we want to leave, and what our highest possible mission is during this lifetime - who we want to help, how we want to be of service. This is related to 'self-transcendent purpose'. When we have a clearer image of that MISSION or that PURPOSE, this can help us determine if the ups and downs are worth the effort.” – Stefanie Faye, Mindset Neuroscience

The Power of Optimism


Optimism is more than just having a sunny outlook—it's about viewing challenges and obstacles as temporary and surmountable. According to Michele Borba, Ed.D., "Optimistic people view challenges and obstacles as temporary and able to be overcome, and so they are more likely to succeed." Success, in this context, is defined by you and includes the elements that bring meaning to your life.

Starting each day by choosing to be optimistic can make the daily grind a lot easier. It's not about ignoring the realities of mental health but about experimenting with a positive mindset.


Time to Work


To help you stay optimistic and focused on your purpose, here's some exercises to try:


List the Reasons Why Your Life Doesn’t Suck


Taking a moment to list out the positive aspects of your life can shift your focus from what's going wrong to what's going right. Here are some prompts to get you started:

  • I have family and friends who support me

  • I am physically healthy

  • I have opportunities to grow and learn

  • I have an adorable cat


Role Play! Viewing Setbacks as Temporary vs. Permanent


This exercise helps you practice reframing setbacks with an optimistic perspective. Below is a list of events with both pessimistic and optimistic views. Fill in the remaining perspectives:

Event

Pessimistic View

Optimistic View

A work colleague doesn’t show up for a call/appointment.

That person is rude and irresponsible.


You get takeout from your favorite restaurant and they got your order wrong.


Oh dang nabbit. I was really looking forward to eating that. Oh well, I guess I can get it again next time.

You’re driving to work and you get a flat tire.

Of course. I have the worst luck. Things always go wrong for me.


The dog needs to go for a walk but you’ve had a really long day and don’t want to.


You know what, I am a good dog parent and by golly I need the day off. It is ok for me to take a break from chores every once in a while.

You did not get chosen for the promotion.

It’s never worth it – I try and I try and the boss never notices me enough to promote me.



Cultivating a Positive Mindset


Pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones, even in seemingly silly exercises, encourages growth. Changing our thoughts can alter our feelings and behavior, ultimately improving our ability to handle whatever comes our way.

Michele Borba puts it succinctly, “How we think, feel, and act interact. In short, our thoughts determine our feelings and our behavior, not the other way around. So, if we can change negative, inaccurate thoughts, we can alter our feeling and behavior, and thereby improve our odds of handling whatever comes our way.”

Ideas to Cultivate Optimism


The Role of Community

Building a supportive community around you can reinforce your efforts to stay optimistic and purposeful. Sharing your goals and challenges with others who understand and support you can make a significant difference in your journey.


Practicing Gratitude

Gratitude is a powerful tool for fostering optimism. By regularly acknowledging the things you're thankful for, you shift your focus from what you lack to what you have. This simple practice can have a profound impact on your overall outlook on life.


Setting Achievable Goals

Breaking down your larger purpose into smaller, manageable goals can help you stay motivated and track your progress. Celebrate each milestone, no matter how small, as it brings you closer to your ultimate mission.

A women smiling big while eating an oyster.
I have some annoying gut issues, so eating healthy is a HUGE way for me to practice self care.

The Importance of Self-Care

Taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally is crucial for maintaining optimism and purpose. Ensure you make time for activities that recharge and rejuvenate you, whether it's a hobby, exercise, or simply relaxing with a good book.


Learning from Setbacks

Setbacks are a natural part of any growth process. Instead of seeing them as failures, view them as opportunities to learn and improve. Each challenge you overcome strengthens your resilience and brings you one step closer to your goals.


Seeking Professional Guidance

Sometimes, the guidance of a professional can provide the clarity and support you need to stay on track. Whether it's a therapist, coach, or mentor, don't hesitate to reach out for help when you need it.


Staying Inspired

Keep your inspiration alive by surrounding yourself with positive influences. Read books, listen to podcasts, or follow thought leaders who resonate with your values and goals. Inspiration can come from anywhere, so stay open to new sources of motivation.


Conclusion


Finding meaning and moving forward with purpose is a continuous journey. By understanding your mission, cultivating optimism, and surrounding yourself with supportive communities, you can face life's challenges with resilience and grace. Remember, all the work that you do is leading towards a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

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