Respond to the following statements with always, sometimes, and never:
- In uncertain times, I usually expect the best.
- If something can go wrong for me, it will.
- I hardly ever expect things to go my way.
- I rarely count on good things happening to me.
- Overall, I expect more good things to happen to me than bad.
In order to fully understand this topic, we have to get beyond the “glass half empty/half full” definition. The subject is also broader than a personality type. Some people are naturally bubbly while others take a few hours to get their engines running. Yet both can be optimistic. Martin Seligman refers to this as a person’s outlook on life. He says everyone has an ”explanatory outlook.”
When there are those inevitable setbacks in life, the optimistic person interprets these as something that is:
- It can be changed
- It’s just this one situation
The pessimistic person sees the setback as:
- This is going to be forever
- This will undermine everything I do
When something good happens, the optimist explains it as:
- This will last forever
- I did this
- This will help me in every area
The pessimist, when they experience good things thinks:
- I didn’t do this
- It’s only this situation
- It only helps in this one domain
Your explanatory style is the way you view the world.
When bad things happen both the pessimist and the optimist embrace them. The difference is that the pessimist has a “see, I told you so” explanation. The optimist has an “I can recover from this” explanation. When good things happen the optimist embraces them, “this is wonderful; I want more.” But the pessimist discounts it by explaining, “this can’t last; it’s too good to be true.”
Here are 4 practices that will make our explanatory style more personally productive.
- Acknowledge that you are the architect of your perceptions. Without this first step, you become a victim of things happening all around you. The way you see your life shapes your life. We all have our internal way of defining our life which, to a degree, determines our destiny. This acknowledgment is the beginning of opening yourself up to new possibilities.
- Be aware of your explanatory style. Everyone experiences setbacks and difficult situations. The optimist keeps the trouble external. This enables them to work on the problem, difficulty, or that taxing project;
The times are changing, and I believe for the better.
There are those that think youth are the same in every generation. It is true that all youth tend to:
- Take risks
- Have an experimental life-style, and
- Push the envelop
However, as far as outlooks on life and work, or even worldviews, generations can differ substantially.
When describing 90 Million people (Millennials), we are describing general truths which always include exceptions. The Millennial orientations we discovered in our research are representative of the Millennial population, but not definitive of that population.
However, knowing these general truths will help organizations shape strategies that impact the entire Millennial generation (even the exceptions). These same strategies also impact the other generations for the better.
Here is what we see in work and life today:
- We have a generation that is coming to the workplace differently than previous generations. And there is a shift connected to their arrival. Organizations are finding it both prudent and practical to change the way they behave in the workplace.
- One size doesn’t fit all. Even though their outlook on work and life are generally the same, they are diverse racially, politically, in styles and opinions. Politically they transcend the 2 party system. They don’t just pull the Republican or Democrat lever. They itemize their opinions and votes, and many are Independent (44%). And they yield tremendous power. In 2016 Millennials have become the largest voting block.
- Although they are approaching the world and work differently from previous generations, they still hold high importance to traditional milestones. They aspire to a life well-lived. They look for purpose in their work. When they feel pride in what they do and know they are contributing on a daily basis, the result is a sense of purpose. If purpose is not found in their daily endeavors they will look for it at work. So they, in essence, show up with BIG expectations. This means employers must make sure they deliver on the “why” of their work. That’s a big promise to fill…but with a big payoff.
No one has ever become a hero by dodging discomfort. At the core of our stories, fairy tales, movies and legends, the hero always encounters varying degrees of disequilibrium and disorientation. And this is where the greatest learning takes place.
Everything you’ve ever wanted is one step across your comfort zone.
How do you view the discomforts you encounter? There are 3 choices: Avoidance – Resignation – Engagement.
- Avoidance has its place. Why create discomfort where it’s not necessary?
Yet, who decides what is and isn’t necessary? Going to school and work often creates discomfort, but it’s necessary. Exercising can create discomfort, but we know the benefits. Medical procedures, even though uncomfortable, are a must.
- Resignation in the face of discomforts involves acceptance.
However, the shadow side of resignation is that it can put the discomforts in charge. We can become the victims of certain “pains” we encounter.
- Engagement, I suggest, is a better strategy. How can we leverage the discomforts—both planned and unplanned—for our personal and professional benefit?
“You need to do the uncomfortable until it becomes comfortable. There are only two pains you have to worry about, ‘the pain of discipline today, or the pain of regret tomorrow.” Jim Rohn
There are times when discomfort can come as a result of an unwise choice, or perhaps through no choice of our own. Avoidance doesn’t work, and can actually make the struggle worse. Resignation often puts us in a reactive mode. Engagement allows us to proactively learn and grow.