I feel like a kid again.
Like I’m in a movie theater watching my first action hero defeat the villain. Except the rush I’m feeling is not about a masked man or his trusty sidekick. I’m not in a theater either. I’m in my office on a video call looking through the window, and my front-row seat reveals a different kind of hero.
My 81-year-old mother is walking back and forth across the yard outside. She’s taking in the fresh air and getting her exercise for the day. I’m marveling at her diligence in moving every morning—even at an age where most would say, “Why bother?” I can’t help but think what an incredible gift it is to watch her taking in the moment—taking in life.
While others might have observed this ritual and not given it a second thought, I’m letting it squeeze my heart and doing my best to commit this moment to memory. These incremental moments are deposits I try to make into a bank I call attitude. Like a traditional bank balance, your attitude is something you can control. The harder I work at looking for things I can be grateful for, the easier time I have overcoming the “withdrawals” in life.
All these deposits add up to optimism. Like saving money, optimism is hard work. The last couple of years have been tumultuous in every aspect of our lives, and we’ve seen a lot of things that make us question the bigger picture. For instance, my wife recently took our son for his annual well check, and the pediatrician mentioned that she’s never prescribed more Prozac for kids than she does today. We’ve only begun to see the repercussions of a pandemic.
But these observations are where my path diverges from most, and I realize that my worldview on things isn’t a universal one. I choose to clear my head and look at the positive things happening in my life. Otherwise, doubt and fear could govern my choices. I consciously choose what occupies my mind. I’m committed to an uncompromising path that honors my why. If you feel your life lacks a focus on your own purpose, consider two challenges:
1. Create a space for optimism
You have to mindfully look for ways to reflect on the good that’s transpiring in your world so you can marinate your mind in the emotions connected with appreciation. When you make a space for appreciation, there’s little room left for the darker thoughts.
Disney’s chairman and recent CEO Bob Iger comes to mind when I think about leaders who prize optimism. Iger grew up in a small working-class town in a home where his father’s manic depression was a constant cloud over the family. Living with his dad’s condition fueled a fierce resolve later in life to make optimism one of his guiding principles.
Iger says, “Optimism sets a different machine in motion. Especially in difficult moments, the people you lead need to feel confident in your ability to focus on what matters and not to operate from a place of defensiveness and self-preservation. … The tone you set as a leader has an enormous effect on the people around you. No one wants to follow a pessimist.”
2. Maintain perspective
If I haven’t created that time to focus on the good, I lose perspective. Suddenly, my worldview is consumed by the news of the day, skewing my ability to see the balance of things. One definition of perspective is fitting for this post: Perspective is “the art of drawing solid objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of height, width, depth, and position.” In other words, we need to view our position in the world from two dimensions rather than one so we’re fairly evaluating situations around us.
Author Patrick Leddin, former U.S. Army airborne, infantry, and ranger-qualified officer, talks about the importance of maintaining perspective. When he oversaw a thirty-nine-person airborne infantry platoon, their lives depended on his ability to remain fair and consistent. That fairness and consistency weren’t possible without Leddin’s ability to focus on what was truly important and his why. He never let one perspective, his ego, or self-preservation—as Bob Iger puts it—guide critical decisions.
Is your mindset railroaded by a negative perspective, doubts, or fear? Do you listen to people who only confirm your beliefs rather than present you with different ideas? Remember that optimism is something that you can control, that enriches debate, that informs better decisions about possibilities rather than limitations—and that it’s a critical antidote to the pessimism that naturally creeps into your mind.
Be the action hero in your own movie, defeat life’s villains, and let your optimism and a fair perspective play leading roles. I’m confident you’ll like how the story ends.
Live your why,
An excellent way to maintain perspective is to listen to people who share different points of view. I’ve collected 10 of my favorite quotes from worldwide leaders and thinkers. They’re sure to inspire and motivate you over the next week and a half. Click here to join my “10 Daily Wins” and receive a new win delivered to your inbox each morning.