optimism, mindset, leaders

This article is brought to you by AIA Singapore.

An optimistic outlook is one of the eight key ingredients to living a healthier, longer and better life. Are you making optimism a habit?

Take a minute to reflect on your role as a leader in the past year when the pandemic first struck – did you panic and jump into a spiral of gloom-and-doom or did you keep your chin up and charge on into uncertain territory, taking each day as it comes?

If the latter is what you opted for, a key driver may have simply been, optimism.

As Robert Iger, Executive Chairman of The Walt Disney Company, said in a 2009 interview with The New York Times: “What I’ve really learned over time is that optimism is a very, very important part of leadership. However, you need a dose of realism with it. People don’t like to follow pessimists.”

After all, when a leader keeps their chin up despite obstacles thrown their way, only then will their employees have the courage to do the same.

But it goes beyond that - in an AIA Healthier Together study of people in APAC last year, an optimistic outlook stood out as one of eight key ingredients to living a healthier, longer and better life:

  1. Have an optimistic outlook
  2. Be active and engaged
  3. Self-motivate
  4. Understand yourself and your emotions
  5. Feel a sense of independence
  6. Maintain quality relationships
  7. Never stop learning or exploring
  8. Make time to recharge

According to the study, of those adopting at least seven of these ingredients, 97% felt they have an optimistic outlook on life, which was 2.3 times more prevalent amongst this group than the others.

With all this in mind, what are some actions leaders can adopt to cultivate an optimistic mindset – both for themselves and for their employees? We’ve put together three ideas.

Know the different types of optimism

Lian Choo Tan, Senior Consultant and Facilitator at Potential Project, notes that optimism is an active goal-oriented process. To know this, she adds, you have to first understand the important difference between ‘blind optimism’ and ‘realistic optimism’. "The former is known as naive optimism while the latter is what we call wise optimism.

"We call it ‘wise’ optimism because it is grounded in reality, meaning that it improves one’s chances of dealing with setbacks and failures. Unlike blind or naïve optimism, wise optimism is active, not passive. The person using wise optimism does not miss the negatives. Instead, he or she disengages from problems that appear unsolvable – then attends to those problems that can be solved."

Be a curious learner

It is one thing to be a learner. But to be a ‘curious learner’, is something else.

In a reflection piece on LinkedIn, AIA Singapore’s CEO, Wong Sze Keed shared: "One popular theory introduced by a psychologist suggests nine different types of intelligence exist, one of them being curiosity. Instead of accepting ‘that’s just how it is’, you strive to find out why.

I, for one, have made it my personal goal to be a curious learner. In my capacity as a leader in the organisation, I want to inspire and support teams to explore and embrace new experiences.

Let’s all take a leaf out of Wong’s book - when you’re faced with a particularly challenging project and fresh out of ideas on what to do next, perhaps try and probe a little more as to the ‘why’ behind the dead-end. More likely than not, the curiosity might uncover new details or perspectives that you may have otherwise missed.

Build a resilience mindset

Optimism is often linked to mental health, and mental health, no doubt, is almost always the hardest hit in times of crises. And the best response to this, is for you and your workforce to build a mindset of resilience to overcome these stresses.

The first step in the journey is to acknowledge that your mental health is an important part of your overall wellbeing. If you’ve been ignoring it far too long, it is time to take a mindful pause and identify your key stressors in order to take steps towards protecting yourself.

As the next step, AIA Singapore has extended its quarterly complimentary four-week ‘Resilience Mindset’ training programme, which has been running since November 2020, to all corporate solutions customers. The programme, in partnership with Potential Project, takes a deep-dive into the causes of workplace mental health issues, as well as strategies to better manage stress.

In an interview with SBR, Alvin Fu, Chief Corporate Solutions Officer at AIA Singapore, noted: "Our purpose is to enable healthier, longer, better lives for more people and mental health is a major component in fulfilling this mantra. There is no health without mental health."

Needless to say, a mindset of optimism and resilience is key in overcoming the odds - it is what separates a leader who motivates, and a leader who gives up. So once you’ve read this piece above, we hope you will take the next and most important step forward – putting optimism into practice.


Photo / 123RF

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