Cultivating Optimism

Empowering Extraordinary[su_dropcap style=”flat”]R[/su_dropcap]ECENTLY, I gave a presentation on the components of emotional intelligence. The audience was engaged and interested in each of the competencies as I went through them. They were asked to discover one or two areas that they could strengthen while listening to the presentation, and to hold their questions until the end.

After I finished, a rather serious young man asked me,

Of all the competencies you presented, the one that doesn’t make sense to me is optimism. How do you strengthen this and why is it important?”

I looked at him and smiled. I could see his confusion, desire, and his doubt that optimism could be learned.

Why is optimism important? There are several reasons, especially when it comes to stress, challenges, and adversity.

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  • Stress distorts judgment, and optimism can help you stay more reality based.
  • Being optimistic makes you more resilient during adversity and can help you bounce back quicker.
  • Having an optimistic mindset makes you innovative and open to new ideas
  • Optimism helps you see possibilities
  • Enables you to challenge the process in order to create new solutions
  • Gives you a competitive advantage over your constituents
  • There is a direct correlation between optimism and achievement


Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, former president of the American Psychological Association, devoted over 20 years to studying optimism. The results of his research identified three characteristics of an optimist when faced with challenges and adversity. The optimist views the situation as:

  1. Temporary
  2. Specific
  3. External – not taking the situation personally

When you’re not optimistic, the stance taken is a defeated outlook and the situation is considered:

  1. Unchangeable
  2. Pervasive
  3. More personal

One of the common issues I am confronted with when coaching is that during adversity, the “go-to” is to take the situation personally. When this happens, the person becomes overwhelmed, often having feelings of defeat, which, as I mentioned earlier, creates more internal stress and distorts judgment.

[message type=”custom” width=”100%” start_color=”#F0F0F0 ” end_color=”#F0F0F0 ” border=”#BBBBBB” color=”#333333″]How Can One Cultivate More Optimism?

  • Screen Shot 5Learn to reframe the situation by taking the posture that it’s temporary, specific, and external. Ask yourself, “What else could this mean?”
  • Shift your language by phrasing it in the positive, i.e., “I look forward to see you,” versus, “I can’t wait to see you.” Or, “yes, and” instead of “yes, but.
  • Avoid negative people and the naysayers, the devil’s advocate mindset of, “This will never work.”
  • Adopt a daily practice of reading inspirational quotes.
  • Become aware of your internal dialogue that can illuminate where you might be cultivating a learned helplessness rather than resiliency.
  • Increase your self-actualization by being open to learning new things that take you out of your comfort zone.


To lead and inspire others, you need optimism. Motivating others through optimism helps them to reach levels of performance they never thought possible. Your optimism can be the catalyst of making the impossible possible. To learn more about how to become more optimistic, I suggest reading Dr. Seligman’s book: Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

I hope you enjoyed this article and gleaned some techniques to become more optimistic. I appreciate your comments on this topic.


Melinda Fouts, Ph.D.
Melinda Fouts, Ph.D.
Melinda Fouts, Ph. D., International Executive Coach, Psychotherapist is a select Columnist & Featured Contributor for BIZCATALYST 360° and a Member of the Forbes Coaches Council (comprised of Top coaches offering insights on leadership development & careers), and founder of Success Starts with You. She was recently chosen to receive the Empowered Woman of the Year Award for 2021 given by the International Association of Top Professionals (IAOTP). She also received the honor as the top international coach of the year in 2020 by the IAOTP. She provides visionary leadership in her field and her many credentials prove she has the ability to empower women worldwide. Her exemplary role as a female professional in a male-dominated industry displays her influence, capability, and proficiency. Inclusion with the International Association of Top Professionals (IAOTP) is an honor in itself, only a few women are chosen for this distinction based on their years of experience, professional accomplishments, academic achievements, leadership abilities, and contributions to their communities. With innovation and compassion, these women empower others to reach their goals, while creating change for future generations. With over 2 decades of professional experience as a business coach and psychotherapist, Dr. Fouts has proven herself as an accomplished professional and expert in the field. As a dynamic, results-driven leader, Dr. Fouts has demonstrated success not only as an Executive Business Coach, but in every role she has held. Prior to executive coaching and leadership development, Melinda has been in private practice as a psychotherapist for over 20 years. She leverages her strengths and insights from her psychology background to help leaders and managers in transition through increased self-awareness. Owner and founder of Success Starts with You, is based upon the premise that you are already successful. Increasing self-awareness to increase emotional intelligence and unlocking blind spots are paramount to continued success. Dr. Fouts leverages her strengths and insights from her psychology background to help leaders and managers in transition through increased self-awareness and discovering their blind spots. It can be lonely at the top and as a thought partner, she makes sure you are not alone. Dr. Fouts’ unique approach from other business coaches is that she helps get rid of thinking and behavioral patterns that tend to keep executives stuck. Her key areas of expertise include but are not limited to: small business consulting, enhancing emotional intelligence, self-awareness, unlocking fullest potential, brainstorming, identifying limitations, challenges, obstacles and optimizing performance. In addition, her successful career as a Psychotherapist and International Executive Business Coach, Dr. Fouts is a sought-after speaker whose key-note address to Women’s Leadership Conferences is Channeling Feminine Power in the Face of Adversity. Her newly released book, Cognitive Enlightenment, was to be presented at the London Book Fair, March 2020, the NY Book Fair, May 2020, and the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2020 until COVID hit. Melinda received her Ph.D. in Jungian Psychology from Saybrook University and her Masters in Psychology from Pacifica University. Melinda has worked as a consultant with executives and businesses for over 20 years. As a result of her experience and studies, she has developed a unique craft to fine-tune leadership development for peak performance. She lives in Colorado with her big, beautiful dog, Stryder. For more information on Dr. Fouts please visit:

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