We all go through times where we're hyper-focused on the negative rather than the positive. I was chatting with a friend recently who said that as soon as he doesn't hear back from a potential client, his mind begins to cycle to all the possible outcomes. Needless to say, all these hypotheticals result in going bankrupt, staying single, and sharing canned beans with his dog as he lives under a bridge.
Of course, 24 hours pass, he hears back, and bridge crossers need not fear the toll-demanding troll.
But all this got me thinking about optimism and faith. How do we stay hopeful about the future when our minds spin faster than a hamster on a wheel? Here's how to remain optimistic (even when you're convinced everything sucks):
1. Imagine how you'd like your future to look.
Most of us have no idea what we want, but we have a nagging feeling that we don't have it. But since it's "too hard" to figure out what we actually want, we keep spinning our wheels. Does that make any sense at all? Not really, but we keep doing it anyway. Having a clear sense of what you want evokes excitement and motivates you to get shit done. Vision gives you a reason to push through discomfort and energize you with positive thoughts for tomorrow, regardless of what today looks like.
2. Move through fear.
When we approach the unknown or future with our natural desire to feel safe and in control, we hold ourselves back. We can't control the future, but we can control our mindset. Letting go of past experiences is like a spiritual reset button. It might not change what happened, but it removes the event's power from hurting you in the future. Until you make peace with your past, it will continue to shape your future.
3. Stop brainwashing yourself.
Our thoughts are powerful incantations that direct our worldview. Talking to yourself and others about what you can't do becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you're hyper-focused on failures, it's virtually impossible to create a win, let alone be hopeful. So the next time you want to complain about how you'll never get a raise, remember that you're the one casting the spell.
4. Quit future-tripping.
When we feel overwhelmed, we assume that tomorrow will be more of today. We tend to live in the future when there's something we're avoiding in the moment. Stay present! Is there an action you can be taking to create your happy ending?
5. Reach out.
When I see myself speeding into crazy town, I engage in some sort of pattern interrupt. That refers to anything that gets me out of my own head. For some it's exercise, for others it's simply calling a friend. My personal favorite way to remain hopeful is to be of service. It can be anything from helping a friend to volunteering to writing a thank-you note. Helping others empowers you to focus on the good, engage with others in a positive way, and be an all-around awesome person.
Like Dumbledore said, "Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." And since I often take life advice from fictitious characters, I'm confident that everything will work out better than planned.