Optimism: The Fountain of Youth?
Wellness has long been a topic of interest for LEADon® clientele, especially during the past few years as many leaders have stretched themselves to the limit helping their organizations survive and Corporate Family® members thrive. LEADon’s BALANCE philosophy has been a staple of our leadership approach to well-being (more on this later), but there is also mounting empirical evidence that links the EQ characteristic of Optimism to your health and, probably, to your overall longevity.
One intriguing study hails from Harvard’s T.H. Chan’s School of Public Health. The researchers “analyzed data and survey responses from 159,255 participants in the Women’s Health Initiative … the women enrolled at ages 50-79 from 1993 to 1998 and were followed for up to 26 years.” The sample size and span of this study are remarkable, as are the results: “Of the participants, the 25 percent who were the most optimistic were likely to have a 5.4 percent longer lifespan and a 10 percent greater likelihood of living beyond 90 years than the 25 percent who were the least optimistic” (to discover more about this particular study, go to https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2022/06/optimism-lengthens-life-study-finds/).
Interestingly, the Harvard study validates longitudinal research of men and women conducted from 1975 to 2017. That data revealed that optimists tended to live longer (11-15%) than their pessimistic counterparts, and as the researchers themselves summarized, “our findings suggest optimism may be an important psycho-social resource in promoting healthy aging” (for more details, go see Mark Travers’ 2019 post “Optimism, The Key to Longevity?” at www.forbes.com).
The LEADon team has touted the importance of an optimistic outlook for years, particularly in our EQ (emotional quotient) work with leaders and their teams. And while longevity appears to be an added benefit to improving one’s “persistence in pursuing goals despite obstacles and setbacks” (LEADon’s definition of optimism), we have also witnessed the powerful impact this singular EQ characteristic has on individual success and significance.
In our blog “Optimism’s Advantage,” we highlight other personal and professional advantages of developing a more optimistic outlook, including improved problem-solving skills and increased resilience. And in our “Optimism Impacts Your Emotional Competence” post , we explain how striving for a more positive perspective will serve to improve productivity while simultaneously decreasing stress and burnout.
Like the proverbial “Fountain of Youth,” Optimism’s advantages are astounding. But how can you and others in your various spheres of influence tap into this invaluable resource? Fortunately, like all EQ characteristics, Optimism can be developed with intentional effort. Here are a few strategies to get you started toward a more positive, upbeat way of thinking, feeling, and interacting:
- Foster an attitude of gratitude: Thankful people tend to focus on what’s positive rather than negative in their lives. Start a pattern of gratefulness by writing down specific people or circumstances for which you are thankful. Then post this list where you will see it on a regular basis. Add one item to your list each day for a solid month to develop the habit of thinking with an “attitude of gratitude.”
- Develop relationships with optimistic people: Family, friends, and colleagues impact your life, for good or not-so-good, each and every day. Take an assessment of the individuals you’re spending time with, personally and professionally. Who among them have an upbeat outlook and positive attitude? Which men and women in your life tend to make you feel better, simply by connecting with them? Make a concerted effort to interact more with these optimistic individuals in the upcoming days and weeks.
- Give to others: Giving isn’t just about money—although charitable endeavors certainly can be part of your optimism-development process. In most instances, increasing positivity involves looking for ways to improve the lives of others. Sometimes this might include mentoring an individual who needs support, or perhaps you could take a colleague or friend who has been struggling out for coffee “just because.” Remember, time and interacting with others are among the greatest gifts you can give anyone.
Finally, LEADon would also encourage you to find BALANCE in your personal and professional life since this kind of healthy approach to living impacts both Optimism and your overall well-being. You can discover more details in our online course LEADing with Personal & Professional Life Balance®, and we’d also recommend LEADers Manage Their Health® for additional suggestions on attaining and maintaining optimal levels of health. You’ll find all of our courses, blogs, and other resources at www.LEADonUniversity.com, or contact our team directly at 858.592.0700.