Let me set the context: I’m writing this post in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. I don’t know how you feel, but I range between pessimism and optimism at any given time. I want to stay closer to realistic optimism at any one time.
“We”—as in humanity will get through this pandemic. I’m optimistic about that. And, will I? That’s where I range from pessimism to optimism and back again.
I have not (yet) succumbed to the Depths of Despair, as some of my colleagues and friends have. I’m also not cheerleading and I don’t have much patience with cheerleaders. (Patience is not one of my strengths at any time, and especially when we can’t make long-term plans.)
I try to find my way forward at any given time, working towards realistic optimism.
When I have to offer time-based estimates, I like the 3-date approach: What’s the most pessimistic, most realistic, and then most optimistic? Notice that I added the “most” in front of the three options. (See Predicting the Unpredictable for more details.)
We know something about what we need as a society to help people get back to work: testing. Who has the antibodies and who doesn’t? People with antibodies are probably safe to go to work. People without? We need to wait for herd immunity while we wait for a vaccine. Or, we can risk getting the virus. (As I write this, the best knowledge seems to be “it depends on how much virus you’re exposed to when you get the virus”. Maybe. Link to the CDC.)
Possibilities for Realistic Optimism
So, we don’t know enough. How can we create realistic optimism?
Why realistic optimism? Because if we set unrealistically optimistic deadlines, and we miss them, we have Crossing the Desert syndrome. We feel terrible because we missed the artificial deadline. And, we probably used a burst of energy trying to achieve the artificial deadline.
I feel more optimistic when I achieve something small every day—preferably multiple times a day. That achievement fuels my growth mindset and my grit.
I want to stay on the right side of the continuum of our feelings in uncertainty—and definitely above the line. No cheerleading and no depths for me. Here’s what I do:
- Continue to work. (I’m writing, maintaining my exercise and a healthy diet. I’m working on developing new business opportunities.)
- Support others. I have coaching and consulting clients, and I find that supporting them in creating more options helps me, too.
- Finish something so I can get to the next thing. That’s the take a small step idea.
When I continue to work and focus on one small thing at a time, I have more opportunities to Discover ideas that help me gain realistic optimism. I can do something now. My results help me become more realistically optimistic.
That loop: do something, support others, finish something and reassess—that’s my “secret” to finding my way forward.
None of us have any idea how to get to “normal” yet, and we don’t know how long that “normal” will take to discover. I manage my worry with small actions.
We’re all exercising our adaptability muscles now. That’s the question this week: How can you find your realistic optimism?
(You might receive this twice. I had a site problem and had to regenerate this post. Sorry if you receive it twice.)