A large body of scientific research shows that your attitude affects your mental and physical health, how long you live, and how far you climb the career ladder. Some of us see the world as a glass half empty and others as a glass half full. What about you? If you’re a card-carrying pessimist, chances are you’ll have more trouble during these unusual economic times seeing the upside to this downside. We can’t always change what happens to us, but we can always change our perspective. And your mental and physical health and career success – your life could even depend on it. If you don’t have this one mindset, you won’t worry. You can nurture it.
Science On Pessimism Shows Deadly Consequences
You don’t get the expected raise. Your boss is always talking about you in meetings. A colleague steals your idea. After a while, you start to develop a pessimistic attitude about your job. You might even start expecting the worst as a habit. The paradox is that if you have a career restriction and allow your mind to focus too much on disappointment, it has a chicken and egg effect, and you can get caught in a negative mental cycle. Mounted research it shows that pessimism can ruin your career, deteriorate your mental and physical health and even lead to early death.
Unhappy workers have trouble looking on the bright side, working as a team member, thinking outside the box and finding solutions to problems because they get stuck on the problem. Business managers distrust pessimists and do not trust them to lead. Pessimists are shut out of the best tasks and their careers are derailed because they succeed in completing tasks rather than overcoming them.
Pessimism recognized as one of five types of toxic thought patterns that lead to early decline. Nobel Prize winning scientist Elizabeth Blackburn and health psychologist Elissa Epel researched the destructive thoughts that damage telomeres—the protective tips that reside at the end of chromosomes. They singled out pessimism as one of five life-shortening toxic thought patterns. It creates shorter telomeres which is indicative of a shortened lifespan. People with dementia are more likely to die on average two years earlier than those who are not.
Science Shows 3 Reasons to Be Optimistic
The antidote for pessimism is hope. And adopting an optimistic mindset versus a pessimistic one at work and in life in general has three huge advantages.
- Longer life span. Recently, Harvard researchers optimism has been found to be linked to a longer lifespan, meaning that optimism is more likely to live past the age of 85. Optimistic women are more likely to live past the age of 90, regardless of race. Other studies show that optimists are happier and live 11 and 15% longer than pessimists. They adopt healthier habits and relationships and have fewer health complaints than pessimists. Optimism leads to a lower stress level and more stable cardiovascular system, as well as a stronger immune system. Scientists believe that this positive attitude represents a different biochemical response between optimists and pessimists that contributes to longevity. When the mind focuses on the negative, the body releases a toxic cocktail of adrenaline and cortisol into the circulatory system. If the mind focuses on positive aspects, the body injects a dose of more positive hormones into your system.
- An expanded view of the world. A pessimistic mind has a myopic mind. It “zooms in” and clouds out the big picture. Scientists have shown that hope literally expands peripheral vision, allowing us to “zoom out” and see the big picture. By broadening our perspective, hope frees up personal resources so that we can see potential and opportunity embedded in hardship. When our perspective is narrowed (like a camera zoom lens), we create negative blind spots without realizing it. Increased perspective allows us to zoom out of the blind spots our lens sees.
- Greater career success. If you are an optimist, you are more likely to climb the ladder of career success faster and further than a pessimist. One study, for example, showed that sales personnel with optimistic attitudes sold 37% more life insurance in the first two years than pessimists. Why? When you ruminate and focus too much on the difficulty, what goes wrong, who you hurt or how disappointed you are, it limits your career possibilities. A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that optimists have better job search results than pessimists with similar skills. During the job search process, optimists spend less effort searching and are offered jobs faster. They are more selective and more likely to be promoted than others.
Practice Makes Perfect
You don’t have to be a socialite to cultivate a positive attitude. Optimists don’t have some kind of magical joy juice, and they’re not romantics who smile looking through rose-colored glasses. They have developed the skill of knowing and believing in their abilities, and they take positive steps to deal with job stressors and disappointments rather than succumbing to them. We need to practice realizing that we can make a choice about how we interpret promotion and demotion in a career. The key is to practice broadening our mental scope and replacing the “zoom lens” with a “wide-angle lens” so that we can consider the big picture – the solution, not just the problem, the underside of a situation below, opportunities in difficulty and possibilities in career limitations – enabling us to overcome career obstacles and cultivate greater peace of mind.