Today I’m delighted to welcome Adrian Swinscoe. A couple of weeks ago, he shared some thoughts about optimism in a comment to my Why New Work Pioneers REALLY Bother post. I invited him along to tell us more. Enjoy!
Many of us will have heard of Emotional Intelligence over the course of the last few years. It was popularized after the publication of Daniel Goleman‘s best seller Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ in 1996.
Daniel Goleman’s research into Emotional Intelligence (EQ), where EQ designates emotional intelligence and IQ represents academic, intellectual or technological knowledge, quantified the importance of developing EQ. He found that EQ was between 2 and 5 times a better predictor of success (see chart below).
It doesn’t matter which field you’re in whether it’s medicine, law, engineering, journalism, the arts, one of the trades or any other career as the most successful individuals in each area are not necessarily the ones who are the smartest people or those who are the most technically gifted. Instead, the top stars in each field are the ones with the highest EQ or best ‘people skills’.
More recent work on EQ and its relationship to success in leadership roles by Martyn Newman and described in his book Emotional Capitalists described 10 different traits of high-performers. Their highest scores were on:
- Self-reliance – the ability to take responsibility and back one’s own decisions when things get tough;
- Self-confidence – the ability to maintain self-respect and personal confidence;
- Relationship skills – the ability to develop relationships with a wide variety of people;
- Empathy – the ability to understand the view point of all parties and develop resonant connections with others;
- Self-awareness – awareness of how feelings and emotions impact on personal opinions, attitudes and judgments;
- Self-actualisation – the ability to effectively manage their work/life balance;
- Assertiveness – how to express feelings, thoughts and beliefs openly in a straightforward way, while respecting the fact that others may hold a different opinion or expectation;
- Flexibility – adaptable and open to new ideas in the face of change;
- Self-control – the ability to stay calm in stressful situations and maintain productivity without losing control. And, finally;
- Optimism – the ability to look on the brighter side of life and sense opportunities in all situations.
Now, some people find the final trait (Optimism) quite challenging as they would say that you are either an optimist or a pessimist or a realist or whatever and that’s they way you are. It’s an age-old debate but research has shown that optimistic people are happier, more effective and more successful than pessimists. And, Martin Seligman in his book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life argues that optimism can be learned as a skill and that we can train ourselves to become more optimistic. Check out Dr Seligman and his definition of optimism here:
Why Learning to be More Optimistic is Important
Think about it this way: If something bad or negative happens, optimists tend to view it as temporary whereas pessimists tend to do the opposite. Obviously, its not as black and white as this and people will be more optimistic or pessimistic in different areas of their lives depending on their experiences. However, developing a sense of optimism in all areas of ones life will not guarantee but will contribute positively to better outcomes.
Why is this? Because, like Henry Ford once said:
“Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you’re right”
So, optimism or pessimism tend to be self-fulfilling prophecies. It’s as simple as that.
If you want to have less negative stuff happen to you and want to generate more positive outcomes then learn to be more optimistic and you will be taking a more active role in defining your future and happiness. Monty Python captured the essence of all of this in their song: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.
I hope that made you hum and smile
Finally, now that we’ve established that optimism is important to your future success and happiness. What things do you do to stay optimistic in the face of challenges?
Adrian Swinscoe is a consultant and coach from the UK who writes about customer-focused business growth at Ideas for Business Growth. He has a strong belief that optimism is an essential part of any culture, whether business or personal, and that if more people were more optimistic that the world would be a better place. Why not connect with him on Twitter @adrianswinscoe, LinkedIn or if you liked this article then why not subscribe to his RSS Feed?