There have been parts of the last 15 years that were neither easy nor fun. People sometimes ask what kept me going. That is something I have wondered myself. I’ve distilled it down to innate optimism, a strong connection with my inner knowing, and an intense sense of purpose. I was born with all of them, and have consciously cultivated them over the years.
A healthy streak of optimism…
Optimism is hopefulness and confidence about the future. You might think of it in terms of the glass half empty/glass half full metaphor. When optimism becomes extreme, it falls off the edge into being Pollyannaish.
Someone who is unfailingly cheerful—no matter what—can be described as pollyannaish. While pollyannaish describes an optimistic outlook and a determined cheeriness, it also implies that this attitude is taken too far. When you put a positive spin on everything, even things that call for sadness or discouragement, you’re being pollyannaish.
Pollyanna is the main character in a 1913 children’s book about an eleven-year-old girl who is orphaned and goes to live with her stern spinster aunt. To deal with her gloomy situation, she plays the “Glad Game” she learned from her father. The aim is to find the silver lining in every cloud. That’s one way to deal with challenging circumstances.
Is ignorance bliss?
On the other hand, some people are afraid to even admit there’s a cloud because they fear getting stuck there. They haven’t yet learned strategies for moving forward in the face of bad news and difficult situations.
They would like to believe that ignorance is bliss. This can work for a while, but sooner or later will backfire. The person is caught by surprise, blindsided, and is at a severe disadvantage in a tricky situation. In these changing times, the strategy of ignoring how things are is crippling rather than helpful.
Rational optimism is the empowered approach to dealing with what is. Here are some ways of thinking that have got me through rough and discouraging times.
- There has to be another way.
- There must be a bigger picture I’m not understanding. What is it?
- Answers will come if I ask questions and then listen.
This approach has allowed me to see the way things are and to take action to change and move forward.
How do we become more empowered?
Decide to embrace an optimistic, resilient, empowered mindset.
Deciding to do something, making it your intention, is a powerful action toward making it happen. I’ve noticed that having an intention seems to put things into motion.
A couple years ago, I was mired in a feeling of discontent with my life. One day, in exasperation, I said out loud and to no one in particular, “I’ve got to expand my horizons!” Within a week, I learned about a coaching course that appealed to me. I hadn’t even considered taking such a course until that moment, but it was too good an opportunity to pass up. After that, other courses came along, each in different but relevant fields. All the while I was listening to online health interviews, implementing new lifestyle strategies, and beginning to feel much better. When my doctor encouraged me to start writing this blog, I felt able to do it. Long and short, I went from this to this…
Intention and Attention
This change occurred because I declared an intention to change…and paid attention to prompts, coincidences, and opportunities as they arose. Our biggest mistake is thinking that intention is all that’s required. It is not. Life is a cooperative effort and we have to do our part.
This is a point worth repeating. Good things don’t happen if we don’t do our part. We have to first watch and listen so we get the prompts—and then we must consider, make decisions, and act. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and it’s the best way to meet what comes at us.
A strong connection with inner knowing…
Being connected to your inner knowing is a significant factor in rational optimism. It’s what gives you the confidence to face bad news. There are many ways to regain this connection.
Here’s one perspective: We are wired to thrive. We just need to engage with what’s within our biology. And that’s not as difficult as it might sound.
First we need to understand the biology that’s available and still largely ignored. In a recent interview, Gregg Braden explained the science behind this. Humans have a particular gene that gives us extraordinary abilities to navigate through change, creating our lives and a better world to live in. The key is to awaken and cultivate these abilities.
To know how and why, we need to understand the newest scientific information about the heart. It is now known that the our hearts have brain-like cells, called sensory neurites, that can think and remember separately from the brain. By harmonizing our heart and brain, we can capitalize on this and maximize our capacity to…
- process information quickly because we’re accessing our extended neural network.
- access our intuition so we can make choices more confidently.
- increase our resilience by being flexible in our thinking and able to adjust to changing circumstances. We are no longer set in our ways and do not act out of fear in order to keep things the way they are. As we do this, we regain heart rate variability, which further increases our resilience in the face of stress.
Simply harmonizing your heart and brain for about three minutes has a major effect on the body. When you have questions that no one can answer for you—about your health, relationships, who you are and who you want to be—this harmonization is the doorway to your intuition. Try these three simple steps daily and see how you feel at the end of a month.
- Shift awareness to your heart. Awareness always goes to where your body is feeling touch. So gently touch your heart center in any way that’s comfortable—with a finger, your palm, or your hands in a prayer position. This will help you turn your attention inward.
- Slow your breathing. Five seconds in, five seconds out, or whatever is comfortable. This sends a signal to your body that you are in a place that is safe. This calms you down by freeing your body to let go of stress hormones and awaken its healing chemistry.
- Create a feeling in your heart of care, appreciation, gratitude, compassion—any or all of these. This triggers communication from the heart to the brain at a particular wavelength that sets up the cascade of healing chemistry. This puts you in a state of creativity, healing, and resilience that will last for at least six hours.
We can’t know what the future will bring. Practising heart-brian harmonization is a way of preparing ourselves to respond.
Gregg Braden is internationally known as a pioneer in bridging science, spirituality and the real world. He’s a New York Times best-selling author of several books including Resilience from the Heart, The Turning Point, Tales of Everyday Magic. If you prefer to listen rather than read, he has many videos on his website. Braden has been widely interviewed and you’ll find many of these interviews and lectures on YouTube.
The byline of the HeartMath Institute is “expanding heart connections.” It’s a nonprofit organization founded in 1991 to develop reliable, scientifically based tools that bridge the connection between heart and mind and deepen people’s connection with the hearts of others. This empowers people to greatly reduce stress, increase resilience, and unlock their natural intuitive guidance for making better choices. You can check out these tools on their online store.
Deepak Chopra is a medical doctor with both Western and Ayurvedic training. He’s a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and a prolific writer. Chopra has authored more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. He speaks frequently and there are many videos on his website.
And finally, this was a hit single for Frank Sinatra in 1959 and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song the next year. I can’t decide which version I like the best, so take your pick…or watch both and smile twice!