Day 15: Could Optimism be a Muscle That Gets Stronger From Use?

Optimism is a muscle that gets stronger with use,” she said. “Because I exercised it at an early age, it's become a habit. - Robin Roberts

Well said, and to the point! 

How do we develop this habit?

Not all of us are born optimistic but because of neuroplasticity, we have a choice and a chance to strengthen optimistic pathways to reprogram our thinking and mindset habits.  With intention, attention, and repeated practice, we can choose to increase our positive, optimistic, and emotional thinking muscles. This type of thinking will help us to be more mindful when we default to a negative spiral.

Optimistic Leaders often see opportunity where others see uncertainty and despair. These leaders become conscious and mindful of their “Quacking Duck's (automatic negativity) by challenging those negative stories and voices to re-frame their mindset to have a more optimistic outlook.

If you are optimistic or have learned optimism, you also know you’re no Pollyanna. You have learned that thinking critically and creatively is easier without fear and threats spiraling in your mind!

As Winston Churchill once said, “optimists see opportunities in every difficulty.” Optimists have a successful mindset despite chaos and crisis.  Research in neuroscience, positive psychology, and coaching are backing these findings up. Optimism increases performance and motivation even in difficult times of fear, uncertainty, and worry!

I want to offer you permission to make thinking optimistically a habit!

  • What would it look like, feel like, and be like to be more optimistic today?
  • What is most important about being optimistic to you and your team today?
  • What value would optimism bring you today?
  • What is best in your life and work today?
  • What’s your why/ purpose or reason to be more optimistic?

Optimism is a competence we can all learn. Psychologist Martin Seligman coined the term “learned optimism", and developed a tool you could try today:

Learned Optimism
and the ABCDE Method

(From Learned
, by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.)

One of
the main tools for changing your interpretations of adversity is disputation.
Practice disputing your automatic interpretations of events.

When you find yourself feeling down, anxious, or angry, ask what you are saying to yourself.

Sometimes the beliefs will turn out to be accurate. When this is the case, concentrate on the ways you can alter the situation and prevent adversity from becoming disaster.

Despite this, usually your negative beliefs are distortions. Challenge them. Don’t let them run your emotional life.

optimism is easy to maintain once you start. Once you get into the habit of disputing negative
beliefs, your daily life will run much better.

Let’s try: Creating an ABC record: 2013 by Dr. Laura Belsten and ISEI®

A = adversity, B = belief, C = consequence.


A. You
and your significant other have a fight.

B. You
think “I never do anything right.”

C. You
feel (or do) ___________________________________________________


A. You
and your significant other have a fight.

B. You
think, “She (or he) was in an awful mood.”

C. You
feel (or do) ____________________________________________________


A. You
and your significant other have a fight.

B. You
think, “This is a misunderstanding, and I am good at clearing up

C. You
feel (or do) ____________________________________________________

In the first example, you think, “I never do anything right.” You might feel depressed or sad and not try to do anything to heal the breach. If, as in the second example, you think, “He was in an awful mood”. You may feel some anger, a little dejection, and only temporary immobility. When the mood clears, you’ll probably do something to make up. If, as in the third example, you think, “I can always clear up misunderstandings,” you will act to make up and you soon will feel pretty good and full of energy.

What would it look like to keep an ABC diary for the next day or two, just long enough for you to record five ABCs from your own life? To do this, tune in on the perpetual dialogue that takes place in your mind. “Adversity” can be almost anything – a leaky faucet, a frown from a friend, a crying baby, a large bill, or an inattentive spouse. Be objective – just record your description of what happened, not your evaluation of it. Now keep going and use this format until you have established a new habit in your mind!

Remember to celebrate your “done well” moments too!

The Coaching Nest invites you to explore your optimistic mindset! This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for your leadership journey!

This Growth
Mindset is Neuroplasticity in Action.

We offer fast and effective coaching that is customized for individuals and/or groups. By working with Shelley, our CEO and Founder, you'll get an accredited and credentialed ICF Professional Coach. She's certified in Social Emotional Intelligence, and a graduate of Royal Roads University as a Certified Executive Coach (CEC), the Neuroscience Academy and so much more. Shelley’s been through her own adversity, climbed her own mountains, and wants to reach back and help you do the same! If you are interested in contacting Shelley, you can do so here:

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