A smiley stone on the sand

When you’re encountering difficult situations, you want answers. When life gives you a headache, you want something to take away the pain, and you want to avoid getting another one! Although you’ll find plenty of useful answers and practical advice in this article, getting advice is probably not your primary problem. You’ve received more than your share of good advice from other authors, friends, teachers, and passing gurus. The challenge lies in making that good advice work for your life and your career.

That’s why this article won’t coddle you; it’ll challenge you with some unsettling truth-telling that’s designed to help you transform your attitudes, relationships, habits, and choices. Those changes will help you experience the optimism advantage. But for optimism to work, you have to do the work to think and act differently!

1. Optimists accept that life is difficult

The first truth in the great game of life is worth memorising—life is difficult! So get over it. No sweet-talking politician, fairy godmother, or genie is coming to sprinkle stardust or grant three wishes. Embracing optimism is about embracing self-reliance, personal responsibility, and the work of changing your thought patterns and your actions. It doesn’t mean that you’re denying reality; it’s simply about positively coping with that reality to succeed in the face of life’s challenges.

If you think optimism means adopting a Pollyanna mindset where everything turns out right, then you’ve got the wrong idea. That’s simply self-help hype! True optimists have earned their positive attitude from a proven track record of overcoming real obstacles. They did it the old-fashioned way; they earned confidence one obstacle, one challenge, and one victory at a time!

» Life is a self-help project, but you’re not working on it alone

Developing maturity at any age is all about realising that life is essentially a self-help project. Now, that’s a good thing, because it’s your life. How you define success, nurture your own education and career, respond to your problems, and make your choices allows you to shape your life the way you want it lived. That’s both a life-affirming opportunity and a personal responsibility, but, as you realise, it also comes with your share of frustrating challenges. As an optimist, you’d want it no other way.

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Adapted from The Optimism Advantage: 50 simple truths to transform your attitudes and actions into results by Terry Paulson, PhD, published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Used with permission.

A version of this article was first published in the November 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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