Episode 124: The Advantages of Optimism
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Hello. Welcome back to the show friends. I’m your host Miranda Anderson. You’re listening to Live Free Creative podcast, episode 124. If you’re listening on the day this podcast releases, Happy Christmas Eve!! I feel a little bit like the holiday season did this year what it does a lot of years– that slow, slow, slow, and then all of a sudden, here we are! It’s a right on top of us and I’m so excited.
Whatever you’re doing today, whether you are just relaxing into the season or whether you have a bunch of errands and last minute things to get done, I hope that you are able to be present and enjoy the process of whatever it is you’re doing. Whether it’s fast, or slow, or exciting, or feels just homey and cozy that you can be there for it.
This year has definitely been unlike any other. And I think this season will be especially memorable because of how wild the whole year has been. And I invite you to enjoy all of the good pieces that you can find in your holiday. That sentiment leads me into today’s episode. I am pulling one out of the archives, a very, very favorite episode from way back.
This is The Advantages of Optimism. This episode was really well-received when I released it. It’s Episode 11 originally. Something that I have been learning very poignantly this year is how to feel all of my feelings, not only the good emotions, not, you know, fighting through all of the bad ones to get to the good ones, but also to accept, acknowledge, and welcome all of the feelings that we have.
All Emotions Welcome Here
We’re not meant to be happy all the time. We’re meant to have the full spectrum of a human experience. And that means good and bad. That means fear and faith. That means hope and despair and grief sometimes. And all of those things are good. A lot of them can be held simultaneously. We can be joyful and grateful and also feel sad and disappointed.
It doesn’t have to be one or the other. And that’s something that I’m learning and working on myself. I’ve also recognized that sometimes just allowing some of the negative feeling takes this, the wind out of it, you know, takes all of the sort of heat and frustration and all of that. The real powerful energy out of it.
As I allow it, sometimes it flows right through me and then, and then it’s gone and I’m able to be present with gratitude again. And anyway, just random thoughts actually see, as we’re all experiencing a really interesting and in some ways, very traumatic year. And also on top of that experiencing a holiday season. A time of, of hope and joy and celebration, and also a time that can be really tricky to try to balance all of the different things that we’re feeling.
So I wanted to just acknowledge that the good and the bad and the ups and the downs that they are all welcome here. And I’m trying to make space for them in my own life.
And all of that said, I love listening back to this episode about all of the incredible advantages that come from leaning into our hope and leaning into our optimism and knowing that it doesn’t all have to be bad, that we can look for the good that we can see it, that both are present.
And we do have the opportunity to choose to point in the direction of the light and point in the direction of the goodness. This episode goes into some specific ways, some specific benefits that you receive from. Looking for the good in your life and they are real and they are present. And I hope that as you’ve listened, that you will be uplifted.
You will feel supported and encouraged and that whatever place you are in your life right now, whatever is Headspace, whatever, emotional state, whatever mental state, wherever physically you are, whether it’s where you want to be. Or maybe for a lot of people this year, not exactly where you wish you were.
That you can use some of the ideas in this episode to feel a little bit lighter and feel a little bit more hopeful and feel a little bit more joyful as you celebrate this week.
As I talk through the principles that I want to share of the advantages of being optimistic, I want you to remember that I am on this journey with you. I am trying to be more optimistic and I think that it’s something that we can learn.
If you’re naturally the party pooper, if you’re naturally a downer, there is hope for you!! You don’t have to wallow in that all the time. You can come to the light side, the bright side, the rose colored glasses side.
The purpose of this podcast is to convince you that you want to be on the bright side to convince you that there are advantages to looking for the good. I think often people who are quick to point out all the problems with this situation think that they’re doing themselves a service by having their eyes wide open to all of the things that could possibly go wrong.
I would like to counter that with some advantages to looking for the good in any situation that you might see. So let’s talk about optimism.
What is optimism?
One definition of optimism that I really like is: “hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something”. I love the idea of picturing optimism as hope for the future confidence that things could be successful. If you remember back in episode one, I talk about how failure is just things turning out differently than we expected, that there really is no success and failure. Just what we choose to think about the experiences in our lives.
“If you’re optimistic, you can have hope and confidence that any situation could have a successful outcome because you can adjust your thinking to decide that whatever happens is the right thing for you.”
Now, when I talk about optimism, I’m not talking about blindly assuming that no wrong is going to happen in your life or that you’re immune from any of your troubles. You can be optimistic to a fault if you’re not recognizing real signs, warning signs, or dangerous in your life. However, when I feel optimistic, what it means for me is that it doesn’t really matter what the trouble that I’m experiencing is. I believe that I can get through it. It also means for me that sometimes I can see and expect the negative possibilities and that allows me to already be prepared ahead of time to work them out so that I can get ahead of the issue that I already know that things are going to go wrong and I’m prepared mentally to be okay with that and then I can take it all in stride.
Optimism in Our Renovation
A major example of this is with our fixer upper. In January of this year, we bought a small really cute house that needed a little bit of love. We knew going in that this was going to be a big, huge project. I was looking for a fixer upper. I didn’t just stumble upon it and think, “oh well we wanted to move in ready house, but this one will be fine, we’ll just update it”. I was specifically looking for a house that had not been renovated so that we could basically gut it and remake it the way that we wanted it.
Now when you’re working with an old house and you’re talking about gutting it and rebuilding basically from scratch, you have to know that there’s going to be a lot of issues. From the outside and from HGTV, a fixer upper is very romantic and exciting. It is romantic and exciting. It has also a crazy, crazy, unexpected ride with lots of twists and turns and almost every single day for six months something went wrong that I did not expect.
The Subfloor Disappeared
Let me just outline a few of the issues that we found within a couple days of gutting the house. We had people in to talk about the flooring. We had the budget all set. The floor guys called me a couple hours into the tear out and said the sub floor had disappeared in the kitchen. There had been an addition that we didn’t know about. Some point in time in this, our house was built in 1948, so there’s a lot of years there when things could have been added onto or changed or renovated that we didn’t know about.
At some point someone had added a few feet onto the kitchen and because they were putting in linoleum floor, they didn’t bother putting a true subfloor down. There was just plywood and the foundation. It added a couple thousand dollars to the project. This is like on day three, it added about a third of the cost of the flooring on top of the budget for the flooring! That was definitely not expected, but I said, “okay, let’s do it. We can adjust. We can make this work. It’s going to be great.”
The Pipe Broke
Several days later I came in and there was water spraying out of a pipe all over the gutted kitchen. We had taken out everything, taken out a wall. All the cabinets were gone. They were a few pipes from where the kitchen sink had been that were sticking up to the floor. And our electrician who is trying to rewire the whole kitchen had accidentally hit one of the pipes and it broke and he had run out back to turn off the water supply and there was just water spraying all of that house.
It wasn’t a big deal, but it was a little bit scary and I just thought, “okay, well here we go. At least it’s all gutted and we can just clean it all up.”
The Sink Was Lost
When our cabinets came, there were three full pieces missing, including the farmhouse sink. We did the cabinets from Ikea.
By the way, if you have any questions about our renovation, visit the FIXER UPPER category, and you’ll be able to read all about this and see all the pictures. It’s really fun.
But the farmhouse sink was a big deal in the kitchen. It was kind of a center point and I called Ikea to see if they had a different one in case that they weren’t able to find this one of the warehouse and they said that they had discontinued it. We had measured and created the entire kitchen design around this specific sink. The Ikea kitchen sink is about $400 and any other type of sink that I got that was similar size would have been a $1000, let alone that the whole countertop measurement. It would have thrown off every single thing for that sink to actually have disappeared. I didn’t freak out just a little bit in my head, but a couple of days later they found it so that was fine.
How Optimism Helped
Maintaining some level of optimism in each of these situations didn’t protect me from the problems at all. What it did was help me keep my focus on what I could control and look for all of the solutions. I also was able to recognize opportunities for fixing things that I might not have seen if I had been so focused on being upset about the problem.
If you follow me on Instagram, my instagram is @livefreemiranda. You will know that after we got through with the major part of the renovation. We finally moved in and I set up one room really beautifully. The living room.
I am not joking. Within two weeks of moving in, the living room ceiling literally came crashing down as Dave and I sat there together after putting the kids to bed. There had been a crack in the ceiling, some old water damage. It was like the perfect storm that brought the entire living room ceiling crashing down in front of us and we could just laugh. We would laugh and I will tell you that being able to laugh when you’re sealing is literally or figuratively falling down in your life feels a lot better than the alternative, which is to cry.
“Being able to laugh when you’re ceiling is literally or figuratively falling down in your life feels a lot better than the alternative, which is to cry.”
Winston Churchill has a famous quote that says, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, and the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
I have found that to be absolutely true in my life.
“When I am focused on the positive, on finding solutions, and on recognizing the good, I’m able to see the opportunity in every difficulty that comes along.”
5 Advantages Of Optimism In Your Everyday Life
1. Optimism helps us see failure or change as opportunities for a new start.
In episode one, I talked a lot about failure being things working out than we expected. When we’re optimistic, we’re able to adjust our idea or our expectations to find the benefit of whatever actually happens. We get to choose to love the experiences that we have, even if they’re different than we thought that they would be.
“The advantage of optimism in failure is feeling empowered and excited rather than defeated.”
I also love this specific principle as it relates to change. Our life has undergone lots of unexpected change. I’m assuming that yours has to. I think everyone’s life has some unexpected change. Ours has most often been unexpected moves, many, many moves. I don’t even know. I think we’re on like 13 or 14 in our 12 years of marriage.
Moving To Virginia
I remember when we decided to move away from Austin, which was a city where we had thought we would stay forever. We built our home. We built our life with the idea that that’s where we were going to be. I planted fruit trees and imagined myself harvesting figs and peaches in years to come. Then we got this unexpected offer for a job here in Virginia.
We knew that it was right to make this change, that our life would be good in different ways than we even knew. I remember my boys asking me what will life be like in Richmond? And my answer was always: “Even better than it is here. Our will be better than it is right now.”
I didn’t know a single thing about what our life in Virginia would look like. I knew that we were moving into a small house, that we were leaving all of our friends. We were going to a place where there are no cactus and winter is a real thing, and I was still committed to the idea that I get to choose how I feel and I want to feel happy so we would, no matter what. We had no idea what this life would look like and I knew that it would be even better than anything that we had ever experienced.
2. Optimism opens us up to possibilities.
I love this one and I feel like it applies regularly in my life in this kind of intangible way, so I’m going to do my best to explain this idea.
Years ago I read this study about the science of luck and it made so much sense to me because I am a very lucky person. The science talked about how people who call themselves lucky actually behave differently than people who don’t. So, the science of luck is a science of optimism. An Article in popular science says that luck is actually your own positive attitude that keeps you open to new opportunities or perceiving patterns in random acts of chance.
One example that really sunk into me as I was reading more about this idea of the science behind luck was this newspaper test. There is a group of people that was gathered together for the research. They all filled out a survey about whether or not they felt that they were lucky. They ranked it on a scale. I don’t remember all of the details, but I remember was that after they had ranked how lucky they thought they were. They were all given the same instructions to go into this room, pick up a newspaper from the table, read through the newspaper, looking for a specific set of words or something.
They had this task they were supposed to complete and then after they found all of the words that they could go turn the paper in and be done. They were going to spend about an hour in this space. So the people went into the room and they picked up the paper and they started reading through looking for whatever they were supposed to look for. The details are a little fuzzy, but you’re going to get the point across because on the second or third page of the paper, there was a giant full page ad that said “If you are reading this, turn your paper in early and collect $200”. Something like that.
Interestingly enough, the people who saw that and read it and turned their paper in early were the same people who had marked themselves as being lucky. The people who had self-identified as unlucky were the ones who were so focused on finding all of the specific things they were supposed to find for the task that they had been given, that they absolutely missed this giant full page opportunity to finish the test early and earn $200.
Those things are just reinforcing the idea for the people who were lucky that they are lucky. And for the people who were unlucky that they were unlucky because they missed it!
“The people who recognized and took advantage of the opportunity believed they were lucky and so they opened themselves to the idea that there might be something there that they weren’t expecting. And when you’re open to something that you’re not expecting, you can find a lot of luck.”
I Am Very Lucky
I mentioned that I am very lucky. I have friends that say things like, “of course you did.” When I tell them that I found my leather Chesterfield sofa for a steal of a deal on craigslist, or that I want to contest at a conference a couple of years ago that awarded me to free airline tickets to Hawaii.
I also had a streak a couple of years ago when instagram giveaways were popular. Do you remember a few years ago how there were giveaways all the time? I think I want about 10 giveaways in six months. I had packages showing up on my doorstep all the time. My very favorite leather and canvas weekender bag that I use all the time when I travel came from a free giveaway. A signed cookbook that I love came from a giveaway. I even got a free mattress!
In all of these situations. The pattern is similar. I recognized an opportunity and was hopeful enough to believe that I could win. I believed enough to actually sign up, tag a few friends or look on craigslist every single week until the thing that I wanted appeared.
An important note with those things in particular is that there was no way for me to lose. I didn’t pay for entries or gamble to find a couch on craigslist. My only investments where my hope and a little bit of time, but those things paid off.
“You lose 100% of the contests that you don’t enter. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. The advantage of optimism is the courage to simply try.”
3. Optimism improves your physical and psychological health.
There are hundreds and hundreds of studies dating back to the fifties about the benefits of optimism on overall health. It’s like a laundry list of things. Every single thing that could go wrong with your body can be improved by being positive.It sounds insane, but it’s true!!
Things like a stronger immune system, lower stress, slower chronic disease progression, better outcomes for sickness and injury management. These are all physiological things that can be improved by having a more positive outlook. One way the optimism can improve your health is by helping you feel in control of your wellbeing, regardless of the illness that you have. So you see and recognize opportunities for treatment. You take care of yourself, you engage in problem solving when you’re faced with difficulties.
I know in my life I’m more likely to exercise because I know that it makes a difference. It can be really discouraging to expect immediate results when it comes to change for a healthier lifestyle or taking your medication or illness prevention, but optimism can give you the hope and empowerment that all the things that you’re doing, these small things that you do every single day make a difference over the long run. Those small healthy choices contribute to your overall physiological and psychological health in the long run.
I feel like it’s really empowering to think that when we choose positive thoughts, that we are actually improving our health. It’s just really cool.
4. Optimism breeds confidence and perseverance.
When you’re optimistic, you react to problems with a sense of confidence and high personal ability. These are things you know that you can control and you feel good about tackling.
Another way to talk about this is that optimistic people believe that negative events are temporary and limited in scope. They don’t pervade every single aspect of your life. If something goes wrong in one area, optimistic people tend to be able to contain that in one area and not expand it to mean that their entire life is wrong and everything is wrong.
Although we have all had those moments, haven’t we? Because I definitely have had the moment where that last shoe drops and suddenly every single thing in my life is wrong. That is when Dave picks me up off the floor and gives me a hug and sends me out to get my nails done or pick up a movie. I come back and slowly start to put together the pieces and remember that no, in fact, that one thing going wrong did not mean anything about the rest of my life and I can kind of get back on top of it.
When you’re optimistic, you see the long game, you know that whatever tricky situation is happening right now that it will end and that another tricky situation will probably come along and that that will end too.
When we think about what’s going right in a situation, we’re able to feel good about it and that builds confidence and optimist can see that each experience is a stepping stone towards a next and greater goal. You can reframe with optimism into recognizing how that thing that didn’t go the way you expect can be something that actually prepares you better for the next thing that you’re going to accomplish in your life.
Optimism in Craft Workshops
One personal example about this is in my craft workshops. Several years ago, I decided I wanted to teach in-person workshops. I had been teaching DIY online through my blog for years and I really wanted to get back to some of that human connection.
I was optimistic that other people would want to come to these workshops. I was going to make them fun. They were going to be cool. I was going to have snacks. Who doesn’t want to come to a workshop with snacks? So I got a few under my belt and collaboration with other shops. I approached different boutiques and things and worked with them to create workshops. And then I decided to host my very own.
This was the first time I was renting a space, paying for it by myself, and it wasn’t a collaboration for the space. I had a couple people sign up, but not enough to cover my costs at all, let alone make money. Dave and I talked for a little while about whether or not I should cancel the event because the minimum that I needed to cover the costs had not signed up and I decided instead of focusing on the seats that weren’t filled, that I wanted to focus on the people who had bought tickets.
How cool was that? That there were people for that had put enough confidence in me that they wanted to come to my workshop. I wanted to make this an exciting and amazing experience for them. So, I decided to host the workshop anyway. I gave some of the other tickets away so that we could fill it up and make it feel fun. Then it became this opportunity for me to invite friends to come to a workshop and I was giving something to them and that felt really exciting and fun for me. I also was creating another opportunity for me to do the thing that I wanted to do, which was to host these workshops.
I bought the snacks and the materials and we had the best time! And that workshop did not make any money. I paid to host that first solo workshop, but it was an amazing time and it was an absolutely necessary stepping stone to continue to build a workshop arm of my business.
I could have super easily felt defeated, but in seeing the good in this situation and the long game, I was able to enjoy the experience. The whole thing feels like a win for my overall business plan.
“As an optimist, I try to take good things personally and let the negativity roll off. I try to challenge those thoughts that make me feel like less than or not enough and welcome the thoughts that build my confidence and happiness.”
When I start to have a thought “like only four people signed up for my workshop, that means that I’m not very good at teaching.” or “I don’t have a big enough audience.” or “The workshop didn’t seem very fun. No one thinks it’s worth it.” None of which are true. Those are just things I can tell myself if I focus on what is a perceived lack.
Instead, as an optimist, you can reframe the whole situation to say, “This is amazing that I have for people who have put their confidence in me!” and “This workshop is going to be incredible. How fun that I now have an opportunity to invite other people who might not otherwise have been able to come to participate.” and “This is a great chance for me to continue exercising my skills as a workshop instructor.”
Now, this is current Miranda popping in for just a second to give you a little update.
When I recorded this episode two years ago, I was still teaching and had been for five years, teaching Shibori + Indigo dying workshops around the country. When this episode aired, I had upcoming workshops in three different cities in the months that followed. This year when COVID made it impossible to travel, to teach hands-on in-person workshops.
I made a small pivot and took advantage of the opportunity to convert my in-person workshop into a full digital experience. This year I’ve had hundreds of digital Indigo workshops students, rather than the dozens that I would have had teaching in person. And it’s been an incredible experience. I feel like it was a full continuation of how being optimistic can create opportunity from lack.
I will link my digital Indigo Shibori dyeing workshop in the show notes, so you can check it out. If you’re interested in learning a new skill and exercise and your creativity, and for being a loyal podcast listener, you have gotten lucky and earned yourself a discount.
Use the code PODCAST for 20% off of my already inexpensive digital workshop. That 20% off makes it $20 for a full start to finish, step-by-step DIY instructional course, all about Shibori and Indigo dying.
Look how you just got lucky!
5. Optimists are by definition, happier and more hopeful.
This is the real advantage of optimism right here. Not only do you move past failure or change, recognize opportunities, improve your help, build your confidence, but also being optimistic means that you feel happier and more hopeful about your life.
We can all agree it’s way more fun to hang out with someone who is not a downer, right? There may be some strategic benefits to pessimism in some situations, but constant complaining or recognizing things that bother you, that you can’t control is a total bummer.
The truth is we all know that life isn’t always going to be sunshine and rainbows and there are benefits to looking forward to the rainbow after the storm that you’re currently experiencing. In the meantime, in the middle of the storms, we can hunker down and sip a cup of hot cocoa and listen to the rain poured down outside and realize that that storm is watering the plants and building up the water supply for the future. The rainbow is just around the corner.
How To Become More Optimistic
- Reframe for the positive. Whatever’s happening in your life, retell the story in a way that it is a good thing that’s happening to you. That’s kind of a fun challenge, a little game you can play.
- Surround yourself with positive influences and try to avoid negative people. People who are complaining on Instagram, definitely people who are ranting on facebook. Find the people who lift you up, make you feel inspired, look for the good in their lives, and you will find that you naturally start to emulate those behaviors.
- Write in a gratitude journal. I cannot over emphasize the power of gratitude as it relates to optimism.
- Let go of the things that you can’t control
- Acknowledge the negative and then quickly start to think about solutions. The way that you can move past those to improve your life, to be the way that you want it to be.
So what do you think? Are you convinced? Do you feel like you’re ready to embrace the idea of improving your optimism? I want to share the five advantages one more time. We can really drive it home:
1. Optimism helps us see failure or change as opportunities for a new start.
2. Optimism opens us up to new possibilities.
3. Optimism improves our physical and psychological health.
4. Optimism breeds confidence and perseverance.
5. Optimists are by definition, happier and more hopeful.
I have mentioned that my purpose in this podcast is helping you feel inspired to live a more creative, adventurous, and intentional lifestyle. I believe that being optimistic will help you with all of those things. It will open you up to creativity, give you the confidence you need to embark on new adventures and help you be intentional about the experiences that you choose and the way that you choose to think about them.