Never mind those “glass half-full” maxims (which, let’s be honest, can have the opposite effect). To help direct your feet to the sunny side of the street, you need some smart strategies. Five experts, including a clown and an executive coach, offer their brightest ideas.
1. Read Your Résumé
Calling to mind your accomplishments can make you more hopeful. Why? They’re a reminder that good things have happened in the past and are likely to do so again down the road. So take a step back and pay attention to how you appear to others. Peruse a list of your professional achievements, such as your résumé. Read over written compliments you’ve received, like references or performance reviews. Or pull out old awards. (Yes, it’s OK to go as far back as high school.)
Rebecca Rapple is the owner of the Resume Revolution, a job-search branding, marketing, and sales company based in Portland, Oregon, which she founded during the height of the recession (itself an act of optimism).
2. Keep Affirmations at Your Fingertips
Post upbeat reminders online: Create a board on Pinterest.com featuring inspirational photographs or posters. (Think neat interiors, happy children, and you-can-do-it expressions.) Encourage your friends and family members to comment on them to provide you with even more positive support. Looking at cheerful pictures can give you a lift—and often that’s all you need to get into an optimistic mind-set.
Collette Ellis is an executive coach and the founder of InStep Consulting. She is also the author of Focus on Your Vision ($3 for Kindle edition, amazon.com). She lives in Brooklyn.
3. Be Ridiculous
Introducing absurdity into even the most humorless situation can push pessimistic thoughts aside. When I go into the hospital room of a sick child, I’m a total goofball: I wear footie pajamas and Easter-bunny teeth while singing “Old MacDonald.” Within minutes, my wacky behavior transforms a worry-filled room into a place of hopeful thinking.
Karen McCarty is the associate creative director of community programs for the Big Apple Circus, in New York City. She has been working as the clown Doctor Gingersnaps at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for 25 years.
4. Just Try
Anytime I undertake a new challenge—whether it’s learning to knit or solving a sudoku puzzle—I’m optimistic that I will ultimately succeed. And the more I try different things, the more confident I am that I can overcome obstacles. It’s made me a stronger person and better in my comedy routines. When I’m onstage, I often ask someone in the audience a question. I’m never sure what the person is going to say, but I tell myself that I can deal with whatever comes. And then I find a way to mold the response into something funny.
Wali Collins is a stand-up comedian based in New York City and the author of The Y’NEVANO Book of Encouragements ($10, amazon.com).
5. Amp Up Your Language
The words we use—both with others and in our thoughts—help shape our perception of the world. So try to rid your vocabulary of always and never, since they usually don’t reflect reality. And bump up any adjectives you use to their most positive form. When asked how you are, don’t respond, “Fine.” Be excited and say, “Great” or “Wonderful.” Also, when talking about your daily life, choose action verbs. Say, “I gained three new clients today,” for example, instead of stating something passively, like “My business is doing well.” Speaking more enthusiastically attracts sanguine people, and more opportunities will naturally come your way, brightening your outlook on life.
Samantha Ettus, based in Los Angeles, is the writer of The Experts’ Guide series of books. She also writes a personal-branding blog for ForbesWoman called Personahood.