How To Increase Your Optimism

Optimistic conversation

Whether you are a pessimist or an optimist, everyone does encounter difficult situations in their lives but the difference is in interpreting it. The optimist tends to make positive change towards changing a situation while a pessimist tends to do nothing. The pessimist could also sink into helplessness and depression if it continues for too long.


What is the case for being optimistic? What are the benefits?


1. You are more resourceful

Optimistic people generally feel happier and more resourceful in tough situations and see obstacles as challenges rather than failed learning experiences.


2. You tend to live longer.

According to researcher Suzanne Segerstrom, PhD, author of Breaking Murphy’s Law, she mentions that when researchers look at people with the same medical conditions, they can almost predict who will live longer; it’s the one who feels that his/her health is better.


3. You have better quality of life.

Studies indicate that optimists:

  • Are 9 percent less likely to develop heart disease.
  • Are only 77 percent as likely to be re-hospitalised after some types of major surgery.
  • Have blood pressure that’s five points lower, on average.
  • Live an average of 9.5 years longer.


4. You experience more personal success.

Dr Martin Seligman conducted a study on insurance agents with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and found out that they were an amazingly optimistic group. In 1985, 15,000 participants took part in an assessment and found that after two years, optimists were out-selling pessimists by 31%. In another study by Peter Schulman, published in the Journal of Selling and Sales Management, studied the effects of applying learned optimism in businesses. He found out that optimistic people sold 35% more and were two times less likely to quit in their first year when compared to pessimists.


Ways how optimism helps a person who is facing:

  • Financial loss. He has just lost everything in a business venture that wiped out his 16 years of hard work.
  • A tough disease. Her body is wretched in pain by the constant surgeries and medication that she needs to go through just to keep alive.
  • An immense amount of stress that threatens his health and sanity. He feels that this stress will carry on forever in his life.
  • A breakdown in a team’s performance because there are major setbacks to their research efforts which leads to a low morale between members.

No matter what situations a person faces, a sense of optimism is extremely important to lift the human spirit and carry on the battle in hard times. It could also be developing a strong belief that they can overcome setbacks faced in life and not be discouraged by it.

“Whether you are a pessimist or an optimist, everyone does encounter difficult situations in their lives but the difference is in interpreting it.”

– Kenneth Kwan


Some ways to increase a sense of optimism within yourself, friends and colleagues.


1. Understand that there are seasons in every tough situation.


When one person faces a tough situation, it is important to remember that there are seasons. This means that there will be a time for success and a time for bad situations. Tough times don’t always last forever and the seasons for it will change.

Look at the natural cycle of things, when there is winter, we know that spring will come soon. We just need to get through the tough situation and make sense out of it. There is a saying that “tough times don’t last, tough people do”.

I could remember the time when I first started out in my training business and I took a huge pay cut from my comfortable job as a resident engineer to earning just about $480-600 per month. There were many times, I did not even earn any money for that month and I was rather stressed to at least bring something back home. This was further made worst by the fact that I just got married and had to make mortgage repayments with my life savings. Everything was wiped out and my bank account dropped to $22.

One of the things that kept me going was this sense of faith that it was a matter of time and the right strategy I needed before I will make it as a great trainer. I knew that I had to spend my time honing my skills and endure the three years of hardship and having no money.

This was also tough when friends around me went on holiday trips every year and even family members telling me to go and get back to my previous job and start all over again.

I am glad to say that I have gone through these dark moments and managed to stay true to my desire to speak and train. The interesting thing was that the tough times made me more resilient and right now I have been earning more than I ever thought was possible and I do not feel that I am in any lack.

In fact, I grew more than just training, but right now get to speak on motivation and high-performance teams in numerous conferences and conduct training in over 10 countries.

I firmly believe that seasons are in every situation. You could be moments before ending a dark saga in your life and just need to endure and move on.


2. Is your situation pervasive or isolated?

When something happens to you, it is important to see how widespread it is in your life. Most of the time it is not as gloomy as it seems and is isolated to just a certain part of your life.

For example, if you are currently swamped with work and missed a few deadlines, a pessimistic person might think that this string of events shows how bad he handles a situation. If this continues, he might think that he will never be able to keep to deadlines and is slow at his work. This will lead to more stress and probably a less performance at work.

“I firmly believe that seasons are in every situation. You could be moments before ending a dark saga in your life and just need to endure and move on.”

“When something happens to you, it is important to see how widespread it is in your life. Most of the time it is not as gloomy as it seems and is isolated to just a certain part of your life.”

However, an optimistic person will look at it and ask himself if this is an isolated incident in his life? He will conclude that this was a tough period and it is true that he has missed a few deadlines but it does not change the fact that previously he has met his deadlines consistently but the current workload is making it difficult to do it.

Seeing the situation in isolation is a step in helping him be optimistic. He might want to talk to his boss about sharing the extra load with another person for the time being or consider re-looking at how he can be more productive with his time instead of putting in more hours.


3. Do you have control over it?

In all situations, we need to always assess if we have the ability to make choices in a situation. A pessimistic person tends to think that they have none. They feel that they lack the power to make decisions or ability to change the things around them. You can have limited choices, but it is important to remember that you still have choices.


It is good to constantly ask if we have tried everything within our power or what could we have done if we could do anything that we want? By asking resourceful questions, you tend to come out with more resourceful answers.


“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

– Reinhold Niebuhr


How do we develop our optimism?

The good news is that optimism is a learned behaviour and can be taught and acquired, just like driving a car.


Here are some quick tips that you could use to learn optimism:

• Optimism is a learnable behaviour. Attend proven courses that will help you develop in this area.

• Understand that there are durations to tough situations (recall the seasons).

• Tough situations are usually isolated and do not affect your whole life.

• You have the power to make choices. If you do not have, it is not good to be upset because it is outside your sphere of influence.

Success breeds success. Always relook at where you have succeeded previously and ask how it can help bring you to the next level.

• Disrupt negative beliefs. Question their validity and soundness. You will realise that a lot of pessimism is actually not worth considering and rarely occurs.

• Focus on what drives you to better performance. If you hang out with optimistic people who ask more from you, you tend to perform better.

• Track your achievements. Give yourself credit when it is due.

Picture of Kenneth Kwan, CSP
Kenneth Kwan, CSP

Kenneth Kwan is an internationally recognized Author, Global Leadership and Motivational Speaker, renowned for his ability to inspire and empower audiences worldwide. With over a decade of experience, he has spoken to leaders from 40 countries, helping transform cultures and shift mindsets within Multi-National Companies (MNCs) and Government Organizations. Kenneth’s expertise in solution-focused thinking and strategic planning has guided numerous businesses toward significant results and high-performance environments. Featured in esteemed media outlets like Channel News Asia and Malaysia's BFM89.9, his insights on leadership and motivation are highly sought after. Kenneth's book, "Small Steps To Big Changes," showcases his profound wisdom and practical strategies, making a lasting impact in lectures and training programs across the region.