How To Turn Into An Optimist in Four Easy Steps

by: Fahad Alden, College of Fine, Arts, Humanities, & Social Sciences Well-being Leader

Many people believe that optimism is something inherited, that as little kids, they were always cheerful and bubbly and go-getters. For me, becoming an optimist was something I had to develop through trial and error. 

At 8 years old, I would groan and complain about everything from school to going to the playground. To some extent, there was a reason  I was so miserable at that age. As a Middle Eastern boy, my heritage and culture made me an easy target. Things escalated as I got older when a group of kids taunted me for years with racial slurs. The fact that I also was horrible at sports made it harder for me to make friends with other boys my age. I was also pulled out of classes to be in special education classes, which made me an even easier target.

While these factors help to explain why I was a bitter and miserable person, they do not excuse it. Yes, I dealt with hardships, but I allowed my flaws and weaknesses to define who I was. No one wanted to be around me, because all I would do is complain. I also grew envious of kids who were more athletic or more intelligent than me, thinking that the universe dealt them better cards. 

This pathology is something no one should subscribe to. When I fixated on everything that was wrong with my life, I neglected the great things I had: loving parents, living in a safe neighborhood, and having food on my plate. 

I left this toxic mindset once I  watched a video about spirals. A spiral is when  you go into school thinking of the worst-case scenario, like before the first day of school when you think about how you will go to your classes, no one will look like you, and you will eat lunch alone.  Positive spirals are about flipping that script. An example would be “I am going to go to school and make many friends.” Another example is, “I am going to kill it this year in physics, and my parents will be proud of me.” At the beginning, this may feel inauthentic or unnatural. Andjust like learning to ride your bike, you may fall a couple of times, but it is important to get back up and keep trying. 

So how might one go about changing their mindset? The first suggestion is to start listening to empowering music, such as the work of artists like Nicki Minaj, Megan Thee Stallion, and Dababy. Their music highlights being assertive, making money, and loving yourself. When Megan raps about how she is the most fly in the room, channel that about yourself. When Nicki Minaj talks about how her lyric game is on point, and she’s the best in her game,envision yourself as the best at what you do. I began to carry myself differently when I stepped away from sad songs and switched to confident and upbeat songs.

Second, expand your reading horizons. When you’re reading a self-help book, it is like engaging in a conversation. You are hearing a story and an experience with some sprinkles of advice on top. Reading about world leaders’ or spiritual advisors’ advice will help you on your journey. Reading books from Gandhi or Oprah will make you feel like you are meeting them in real life. You will hear about their advice, their triumphs, and their failures, reminding you that life is not a linear path to success. 

Third, keep a journal so you can better track and monitor your emotions. You can also list things you are grateful for. Start small, such as writing that you are thankful for having a bed, listing one friend you cherish, and being able to have a job. While those may seem like simple things, when you realize how much privilege you have (which I learned when I volunteered at a homeless shelter), you realize how big those can actually be. 

Finally, I also recommend meditation. Go to a quiet area, preferably outside on the beach or at a park, and close your eyes. Reflect on the positive things in your life and on things you could be doing better. For example, maybe youthink about how you are lucky to have a safe and calm place to decompress or how fortunate you are to have the opportunity to continue your education, Feel all your emotions, whether they are positive or negative  Make time for yourself to feel these emotions instead of distracting yourself through work, relationships, or partying. 

Change is something, my 8 year old self would never think was possible. I went from being bullied to library trustee in my town. Even though I have made great strides I am still a work in progress.  So come on, this article can be the key that unlocks your potential.