Proof Positive: Why Optimism Increases the Chances of Success in Fitness and Life
By Roger “ROCK” Lockridge
“I play to win, whether during practice or a real game. And I will not let anything get in the way of me and my competitive enthusiasm to win.” – Michael Jordan
How many times have you heard an interview from someone after a great achievement or after winning a championship? Do you ever hear when asked to describe their feelings “I never thought we could do it” or “I was prepared to lose”? Absolutely not.
Successful people in all walks of life are successful for different reasons but they all have one in common – they have a positive attitude and whenever they encounter adversity they remain optimistic.
Science Supports Optimism
Many people have preached about having the right attitude for decades but there wasn’t much documented proof to support the theory that optimism works. However since the 1980’s when the first major study about the subject was published (1), there has been more time and effort devoted to finding out how powerful positivity can be. Some research shows that people that are determined to have optimistic outlooks actually live healthier lifestyles and can reduce the chances of diseases and developing bad habits like smoking and drinking excessively later in life. (2)
Need more? Okay, let’s look at the wallet and bank accounts. A study by psychologist Susan Segerstrom determined that law students that were optimistic about their future endeavors were more likely to earn higher incomes than their pessimistic peers. (3) So better health, longer and better quality of life, and more money in the long run…what is there to be negative about being optimistic?
How To Change The Outlook
“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” – Winston Churchill
Now I know this is easier said than done. Many of you reading this have friends and family that may only seem to find the negatives in life. You probably have stressful jobs and it is tough to just “let it go” after you clock out. Everyone goes through issues that are out of their control and brings on negative tendencies. So how does one take on a positive attitude in the face of pessimism?
1. Start the day off right. You can take the first step in developing a positive attitude before you take your first step out of bed. When you wake up, think of a word that you want to describe how your day will go and make sure that everything you do somehow coincides with that word. If your word is “inspiring”, then find quotes to inspire you that you can share with family or co-workers or look for a good news story in the headlines to talk about so you inspire those around you and become inspired yourself. If you are about to go to the gym or compete in an event, use a word like “champion” and make it a point to prepare, train, and recover as if you were a champion in your sport.
2. Set daily goals. So now you have made the goal to make the day a positive one. Now you need to set yourself up to succeed to reinforce the optimism. Write down your tasks that you must do at work, home, and in the gym. Make it a point to do the task you are LEAST likely to do first and what you are most likely to do at the end of the day. Prioritize the list of all of the tasks accordingly. Taking care of the first tasks that you normally might put off until later will bring on a successful feeling that you can carry with you throughout the day.
3. Turn Problems Into Opportunities. At some point you will come across a challenge or something may go wrong. Don’t look at this as adversity or something that will make your day take a turn for the worse. Instead, tell yourself that this is an opportunity for you to put your skills to work, learn something new, and show that you can handle pressure and still yield results. Also, you will be better prepared for the future in case the situation ever comes up again.
4. Laugh It Up. Anything that is funny will lighten up your mood. Whether it is a joke you see on Comedy Central or read online, or if a funny incident takes place in front of you. Try to find something that makes you laugh every day. Social networks have funny images and quotes all the time. If you need to, make this one of your daily goals so you will be sure to take the time to laugh.
5. Keep Positive Company. Do you encounter people who only seem to find the worst in life? Challenge those people to become more optimistic. When they talk to you and begin to dwell on all that is wrong with the world, ask them if they encountered anything positive today. Better yet, as soon as you see them, ask them what the good news is. If you do this and they still can’t seem to do anything but bring themselves down and try to bring you with them, make it a point to find more optimistic people like yourself to hang out with. You will be surprised how much of a difference this makes in your own outlook.
6. Smile. Wait. That is it? Smile? Yep. Research has shown that when you are smiling when taking on tasks that they had lower heart rates during stress recovery than people who didn’t smile. Maintaining a positive facial expression (like a big toothy grin) has both physiological and psychological benefits. (4)
Although life may seem tough and taking on a monumental change in your life like training for a contest or going through a transformation seems like an insurmountable challenge at times, following these guidelines and working to maintain an optimistic mindset will play a crucial role in future success both with your physique and your overall life.
*1. M. Scheier, C. Carver. “Optimism, Coping, and Health: Assessment and Implications of Generalized Outcome Expectancies.” Health Psychology. 4 (1985): 219-247.
*2. Giltay EJ, Geleijnse JM, Zitman FG, Buijsse B, Kromhout D. (Nov 2007).”Lifestyle and dietary correlates of dispositional optimism in men: The Zutphen Elderly Study.”. J Psychosom Res 63 (5): 483–490.
*3. Carver, C.S.;Scheier, M.F.;Segerstrom, S.C. “Optimism.” Clinical psychology review 30, 7 (2010): 879-89.
*4. Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Facial Expression on the Stress Response.Kraft TL, Pressman SD. Psychol Sci. 2012 Nov 1;23(11):1372-1378. Epub 2012 Sep 24.
About the Author
Roger “ROCK” Lockridge is a writer whose work has been seen all over the world. He is most known as a writer for Iron Man Magazine and Bodybuilding.com. In 2009, he was named Bodybuilding.com Male Writer of the Year which along with the Female award is the highest award for writers in the bodybuilding/fitness world.
Roger is also known for his work against child abuse and domestic violence and he was featured as a part of the domestic violence documentary “30” as the only child survivor and the only male survivor in the film.
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