Self

Why Staying Optimistic Is The Hardest Job You'll Ever Have

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happy woman outside

By Howard Rudnick

“You live for the fight when it’s all that you got” —Bon Jovi, "Livin’ On A Prayer"

Do you ever have those days where it seems like no matter what you do, your efforts are futile, and there is nothing positive to look forward to? I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone.

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In today’s current climate, especially for millennials, it seems hard to stay optimistic about anything, really. Too often, prospective employers tell us no, our romantic prospects ghost us, we’re in debt, and we have a real oompa-loompa in the office (at least if you’re living in the United States).

Since I graduated from college, five years ago, I’ve had plenty of ups and downs, both professionally and personally.

There have been plenty of times where I have wanted to throw in the towel, roll over, and die. At times, it felt like nothing I did was working and that I was constantly stuck in the mud, unable to climb out.

I’ve sat and lounged around in a funk, played the saddest songs, and had myself some real pity parties.

Eventually, I realized that my situation could be worse and that I should be grateful for everything I have. Many people are not as lucky as I am. It felt silly to marginalize every other person’s struggles as unimportant and make mine seem life-changing.

We’re all in this (struggle bus) together. That’s why we have to stay optimistic, even if it seems impossible.

The biggest obstacle to staying optimistic is yourself. I do believe we’re all allowed to grovel and feel down on our luck for a little bit, but we have to be able to come out of that funk or else our self-defeating attitude becomes self-destructive and only leads to an unbreakable cycle of sadness.

What I’ve learned over the years is that in order to stay optimistic, I should make a pro-con list of everything going on in my life: my accomplishments, my failures and everything in between.

Oftentimes, you’ll find you have many more pros than cons, and that can help you shift your perspective. By taking inventory of these things, you are tangibly seeing your failures and accomplishments, and you are able to rationalize and logically calculate the next steps.

I’ve found that visually seeing these, as opposed to being in your head and wading through your headspace, provides a bit more ease.

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Optimism is more than a feeling. It's a way of life.

For instance, we use the phrase “changing the narrative” to describe a practice of shaping the way a story is headed. By taking the ideology of “changing the narrative” and applying it into your own personal life, you’re taking charge of your own personal optimism.

You’re thinking, “How does changing the narrative affect my ability to be optimistic?"

For starters, think of the infamous quote: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” If you’re not having luck getting the job you want, and you’re going about getting a job the same way, it could be that you’re doing it wrong.

In order to find optimism in your life, you have to be able to think and go outside of the box. Find alternative ways to succeed. There are an endless amount of obstacles in life that we’re going to face.

It all starts with overcoming the first obstacle. Once you’ve overcome that first obstacle, no matter how big or small, consider it a victory. Use these small victories as a way to boost your momentum.

You need these small victories to propel you forward, and even when you hit a roadblock, take your small victories and the optimism you built from them to get through that next obstacle.

I’m the first person to tell you that I’m my own worst enemy. I’m constantly in my head, I second-guess so many things, I think back on past decisions wondering if I made the wrong decision, and I play mental acrobatics.

My brain races at 100 miles an hour, which often feels overwhelming. That’s when I stop what I’m doing and take a breather.

We are human beings. We have feelings. We have emotions, and we also have egos. We are our biggest cheerleaders, and we are our biggest critics.

We have to stop standing in our own way, because once we get out of our own way, we can truly achieve what we set our minds to, even if it takes longer than expected and requires more effort and time than we would like.

Generally speaking, being and staying optimistic is easier said than done. Remember that at the end of the day you’re directly responsible for your own fate and your own happiness.

You’ll either succeed or you’ll fail, but by taking account of everything you have and building a healthy support system, you can propel yourself forward.

Your optimism relies squarely on your ability to make rational and logical decisions as well as to have the mental fortitude to trudge through the mud and make it out to the other side.

Like my favorite song says “If you had one shot, one opportunity/to seize everything you ever wanted/one moment/would you capture it or let it slip?”

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Howard Rudnick is a former contributing author to Unwritten and podcast host of Rudnick Rants.

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This article was originally published at Unwritten. Reprinted with permission from the author.