In a study of sales professionals funded by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company “agents or consultants” who scored the highest in optimism sold 88 percent more than those who ranked as pessimists.
An old adage states that “attitude determines your altitude.” But, what if you are just a natural born negative Nellie, does that mean you will fail? What if you were brought up to believe “the hammer is going to fall” at any moment? What if really bad things have happened to you, then how in heavens’ name can you be optimistic and have a great attitude?
I am a recovering negative Nellie and fight every day to stay positive. I was brought up in a critical and harsh environment that left me struggling with perfectionism and obsessive compulsive disorder. A bona-fide medical diagnosis with a side of lithium to combat my issues. Nothing was ever perfect enough and most things were about the appearance rather than the experience. We looked like a made for TV family but behind the scenes there was much angst.
I escaped as a child by hiding in the closet to read, making grand plans to escape to far away places. But my environment left an indelible mark that has taken many years to face. Because I have unknowingly carried it with me into the world. That mark is a negative mindset.
We as a family called it realism or “just being honest” not wanting to sugar coat anything. Honestly it was painful and harsh, leaving us ostracized and lonely. Stymied by our own thoughts, help back by the reality of what we were sure would happen at any minute. We were Christians and read both Old and New Testaments, choosing to believe in the doom and gloom prophecy of the Old rather than the Grace and Mercy that Jesus Christ himself came to preach.
A failed marriage is nothing to be proud of but sometimes there is a bigger plan and I firmly believe “that all things work together for them that love the Lord God, and for those who are called according to His purpose.” My failed marriage painfully pointed out the fact that I was very different than most and coping with life itself was a struggle. Through this marriage and into “divorcee” status I learned a lot about myself. Primarily I learned that I was full of great creative ideas, talented and well- accepted but self sabotaging with my inner dialogue of “what if” “I should have” “I could have” “I would have”. When I was in my thirties and forties life seemed endless and “some day” was my mantra. Some day I would exercise, some day I would weigh what I should, some day I would travel, some day I would feel heart fluttering, deep love.
I was holding myself back from success but still looking and pretending to be successful. Remember, in my world and mind’s eye it is appearance over experience.
Fast forward many years through numerous near suicide moments and feeling like a fraud. I acquainted my state of mind to a smashed on the asphalt chocolate truffle, a failure on the inside but successful and yummy on the outside. Relationships destroyed I marched ahead, leaving a pathway of broken hearts, hurt feelings and lost dreams.
Three years ago I woke up in the hospital, my diagnosis “fog and depression” with a slap on the back and a side ways glance I was sent home with too many medications and no real solution. It was then I remembered a technique that a mentor had mentioned in her attempt to help me when I was still in my teens.
This life habit was simply that of “the act of gratitude.” Yes, gratitude can change everything. You may say “I am thankful,” “I am blessed,” “I am very grateful.” Those are words and this technique is an act or a verb of Gratitude.
My mentor’s advice: Write it down or it won’t become real. Write it down hourly, daily, weekly, monthly until you write with joy.
So, I began the process of finding 5-10 things per day to be grateful for. At first it was difficult as those prescriptions and the pain was still staring at me. Then I listed: running water, electricity, sun, rain, the geese outside my window, the mail person, etc. Some days the list took a long time, other days it was pages. I saved each journal, each piece of paper and loved watching them grow in number.
Amazingly but proven through science and the Bible is that the act of joy and thanksgiving turned my attitude from defeated to determined, from sad to glad, from sinking to soaring. I felt the fog lifting and the optimism setting in. It was my new drug of choice, the medicine flushed away as I had found the cure.
Gratitude had literally changed me inside out. I began to feel the urge to sell again (I had resigned from my job) and to lead again. Sales came naturally as I focused on others and consulting was natural for me. I desired to serve and love others.
If you are in sales and succeeding but feeling unfulfilled or like you need to be somewhere else then start with observing your life. Start with your attitude. Is your attitude one that will attract greater levels of achievement or are you leaving a wake of broken promises? A path of judgement and negativity? Is realism and supposed high level training stealing your joy and thankful heart?
The key to being an Optimist begins with Gratitude!
Through my struggle to be optimistic I have discovered other amazingly easy keys to happiness that truly can change your life. These are life practices that must be repeated daily, hourly if need be. Watch for the next installment on Acts that Will Make Your Life Better Right Now.