What’s the difference between optimism and joy? That was a question I was asked on the fantastic podcast Finding Mastery hosted by Dr. Michael Gervais, a performance psychologist who has worked with everyone from Olympians to Fortune 100 CEOs. So… what is the difference between optimism and joy?
I believe Optimism is a choice ~ and Joy is a byproduct of that choice. Basically, I feel joyful because I choose optimism. On the podcast Michael added that mental toughness is choosing to do the difficult and that optimism lies at the center of mental toughness. I love this and agree with it 100 percent.
This gets to the heart of one of my main messages. How we see the world is a choice. Yes, some people have it worse than others—in many cases, much much worse. It’s still a choice in how we respond to our circumstances. That’s why optimism sits at the center of mental toughness. It’s choosing to see the good or positive when things don’t look or feel that way. That’s where the choice (and the work) lies.
This is why I believe it’s so easy to be a pessimist. A pessimist doesn’t display the mental toughness to do the difficult thing. A pessimist gives him/herself the excuses for why things aren’t going their way and it becomes easy to live in the dessert. This is also why it’s important to understand the difference between choice and response. We all have feelings on occasion of sadness, anger or anxiousness. Mental toughness is displayed in how we approach these feelings. The greatest champions on the planet will feel anxiety before a competition, but they also take those feelings, reframe their inner dialogue and choose to get excited about the challenge and opportunity. This is mental toughness—embracing the feelings we have and choosing our response to move forward in the direction we desire.
So is optimism right and pessimism wrong? No! Both are choices; and regardless of any excuses, you will own the choices you make and the repercussions that result.
I invite you to listen to the full podcast Finding Mastery. Michael asks questions that lead to a really interesting discussion.
Photo courtesy Finding Mastery