Worry is the motivation-killer. It’s easy to talk ourselves into believing that we’re not good enough. Or that things are beyond our control, so we may as well not try. It’s easy to fixate on what may go wrong, then talk ourselves out of even trying before we begin.
Optimism about results is a powerful counter-agent to worry. It doesn’t come naturally to all of us in all situations. That’s okay, though. Optimism can be a learned behavior. It can be built by habit.
Then, once the habit has been built, it’s a hard habit to break.
Here’s a three-tip process to help with building an optimistic outlook.
1. Be Realistic, which Means Start Small
Building habits of any kind is about consistency. To build a habit of optimism, it starts with little acts, but little acts every day.
Celebrate small victories.
For instance, if you struggle with believing it matters if you exercise, celebrate small exercise victories.
Did you take the stairs instead of the elevator? Celebrate that.
If you struggle with eating healthy, celebrate little good decisions. Did you get a salad instead of a burrito? Make a big deal out of it.
Plan on doing it again tomorrow, and start a cycle of positive reinforcement for exercising.
Little things matter. They build up. Do a small healthy thing every day, and if possible do the same one every day. Consistency is key.
2. Relate Your Growing Good Habit with a Preexisting Behavior
The thing about human beings is we’re naturally creatures of habit anyway. We have a natural tendency to fall into cycles, and we rely on consistency.
Some of our habits are biologically driven. We get up with the sun. We tend to get hungry at similar times every day.
We often develop behavioral habits to go with our biological habits. Since we’re sitting down to eat breakfast anyway, we develop a habit to read a magazine, maybe, because they’re activities that go together.
It’s a powerful tool in habit-forming to identify your preexisting habitual behaviors and associate new habits with old ones.
To cultivate the habit of having a positive attitude, it might be powerful to replace some less helpful habits with some new ones. If you scroll through social media feeds over lunch, consider spending a few minutes reading an encouraging book first.
The formula is identify your daily routines and associate good behaviors with preexisting behaviors.
3. Be Specific
We have better luck remembering to do things that we can articulate clearly. My goal says, “I want to feel better about myself as a person.” That’s a fine thing to want, but it doesn’t give me any tips show to do it.
I could say, “I’d like to reinforce things I want to improve about myself.” That’s getting a little closer, but there are no action items in that.
It’s far better to state a goal with some specific action that I can accomplish today. “Every day, I will read five pages from a book that teaches me tools to improve my self-image.” That’s a goal that’s achievable and specific.
Form Good Habits
Small good habits can have a snow-balling effect. Small positive actions done consistently can build quickly. If you start today with something small that reinforces what you like about yourself, and keep up with it tomorrow, before you know it you’ll be crushing it.