It’s easy to feel negative about the economy these days. While statistically the U.S. seems to be growing economically, wage growth hasn’t kept up with cost of living in the last 20 years. A just-released report from the University of California Santa Cruz found that more company profits are going into the hands of the rich. Meanwhile, poor and middle class people continue to live with perpetual economic uncertainty.
A little pessimism can actually be good for business. It helps entrepreneurs temper huge dreams with enough realism to stay practical. However, too much negativity in your outlook can pose an obstacle to reaching your business goals. Here’s why.
Pessimists often miss the bigger picture.
One reason pessimism seems simpler and more accurate as a worldview has to do with the way humans process news. We tend to see the negative trees instead of the overall positive forest. This tendency leads us to linger on what’s wrong, instead of coming up with ways to improve the situation.
One way to counteract this tendency is to quite literally count your blessings. Make a habit of listing out five to 10 things that went well each day before you leave the office or turn in for the night. Reflect on this a little instead of simply creating the list as quickly as possible. You may even find that you wake up the next day feeling more thankful as well.
Cultivating an appreciation for positive outcomes helps you spot opportunities early, in addition to helping you get a fuller sense of how your business is really faring.
Pessimism can devolve all too easily into helplessness or hopelessness.
It’s a short hop from “pessimistic” to “helpless and hopeless.” These emotional states can be like quicksand. They keep you stuck and make you shy away from positive risk-taking or new opportunities.
Helpless and hopeless people lose their power to act when they begin to believe things will never change. If you indulge these feelings, it can lead to stagnation and then decline, ultimately, for both you and your company.
To remedy hopelessness, start making a list of all the times in your life that you overcame obstacles and stiff odds. Spend a little time recalling those events throughout the day, and anytime you catch yourself sliding into fatalistic thinking. Remembering how much you’ve already overcome tends to make hopelessness seem inappropriate.
Pessimism can actually create the very situation you fear and resist.
Our beliefs shape and mold our reality in many ways. We tend to see the things we keep in our minds.
A simplistic example of this is the old “yellow convertible” trick. You probably would say you haven’t seen a car like that in quite some time. But now that the car has registered in your consciousness, you may find yourself seeing many yellow convertibles over the next few weeks.
Engaging in pessimistic thinking patterns simply conditions us to see and experience the negative events around us more frequently than the positive. It’s not voodoo or New Age magical thinking. It’s just simple awareness and conditioning.
Resist the conditioning of pessimism by consciously creating its opposite: positive conditioning. Look for the good throughout your day, even if it’s seemingly small and inconsequential. Something as simple as someone holding the door for a person loaded down with bags or a driver allowing another driver to merge may not seem important, but over time, consistently seeking out these kindnesses and other bits of good news helps reframe your perspective.
Pessimism may be bad for your mental and physical health.
At some point, pessimistic thoughts can begin to spiral downwards into fatalism and apathy. Thinking “What’s the use?” when it comes to your business, your health and your overall future can lead to poorer health choices.
Even the healthiest individuals lose their fitness and energy quickly when they stop adhering to a healthful lifestyle. Stop working out for as little as a few weeks and you’ll begin to lose aerobic capacity as well as muscle strength.
The resulting diminished reserves of physical energy can lead to shorter work periods and less effort in the office. This in turn makes it increasingly harder to achieve professional goals. In short, pessimism can evolve into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Maintain your health and peace of mind by engaging in self-care. Exercise, proper diet, adequate sleep and meditation can all help you preserve your energy and strength.
Pessimistic mind frames make it hard to brainstorm innovative ideas.
Another result of “there’s no point” thought patterns is a drain on mental and creative brain power.
It’s an uphill battle to come up with productive ideas to revitalize or grow your business while you’re struggling with apathy or a negative outlook. The very act of creation is an act of hope. It’s a manifestation of belief in opportunity and positive change. So it makes sense that pessimism would make brainstorming and innovating even more difficult than they are in the most optimal circumstances.
Fortunately, creativity is one of those things that increases with use. The more you engage in creative work, the more creativity you’ll find you have. Set aside sufficient time each week let you engage in the kind of deep creative work that leads to innovation and breakthroughs.
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