If you’re looking for a 2018 mantra to guide your optimism, look no further than this quote from historian Thomas Babington Macauley in the 1830 Edinburg Review:
“We cannot absolutely prove that those are in error who tell us that society has reached a turning point, that we have seen our best days. But so said all before us, and with just as much apparent reason … On what principle is it that, when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us.”
Despite the popular doom and gloom point of view, you can develop the antifragility of a contrarian.
Pessimism is a GIF loop, but not the one you want to experience over and over again. Said cognitive psychologist Amos Tversky: “when you are a pessimist and the bad thing happens, you live it twice. Once when you worry about it, and the second time when it happens.”
Pessimism, like coercion, is natural. It’s optimism that’s artificial because progress is never permanent. Bad and good things happen in cycles.
Setting realistic expectations balances both outlooks. It prevents pessimists from living bad things twice and stops optimists from gambling. One must toggle between the light and the darkness.
The thing about cliches is that sometimes they’re true. Take this one for instance: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Competition is the quickest way to demotivate yourself.
You may enjoy excelling, but you will realize the game is really within yourself to achieve greater personal growth. According to career analyst Dan Pink, there are two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic.
Extrinsic motivation is rewards-based where things like fame or money drive your effort. Intrinsic motivation seeks a deeper purpose – it drives people to do what matters to them than what impacts the bottom line. Naturally, people that are intrinsically motivated play the long-game.
Purpose is what gets you out of bed in the morning and into work without groaning and grumbling — something that you just can’t fake.
A Gallup study shows making $75k a year does not make people happier; in fact, they are more likely to fall into the trap of jealousy and bitter competition. Dissatisfied people always want what they don’t have.
They say that having a backup plan can demotivate you as well. As Mark Manson wrote, “Action isn’t just the effect of motivation, but also the cause of it.” The doing mindset creates momentum. If you want to be consistent you have to “put your ass where your heart needs to be,” says author Steven Pressfield.
When it comes to motivation, consider focusing on why what you do matters rather than quitting just because someone else does it better. A ‘trying’ attitude put Jamaican Bobsleigh into the 1988 Winter Olympics–“being there” was like winning a gold medal.
When trying to stay motivated, try to keep perspective by practicing “objective optimism”:
“don’t replace “She’s better than me” with “I’m the best,” but, with something quantifiable, like “This presentation I made really looks great.””
The only way to hack motivation and avoid burn out is to enjoy what you do with purpose even if progress is slow. A thousand drips can fill a bucket.
Optimism is the ability to persist through bouts of itching negativity while maintaining your equanimity.
What determines your outlook depends on how well you cope with bad and potentially disastrous experiences while keeping realistic expectations and preparing a proper mindset for the future. Thoughts and action usually go hand in hand.
“To succeed, you must persist through C. R. A. P. – Criticism, Rejection, Assholes, & Pressure.” – Richard St. John