Money and finances have become synonymous with stress.
Thankfully there is an antidote to stress and it’s optimism.
And with optimism you get a 2 for 1 as it not only makes every day brighter but also has been proven to result in smarter money moves!
And before you stop reading because you aren’t an optimist or you are an optimist and are happy that this confirms everything will be ok, the optimism I’m talking about here is what is termed realistic optimism.
What is realistic optimism
Realistic optimism isn’t about ignoring reality and trying to believe the “it’s all going to be all right mantra”. It’s the ability to see a problem and have faith in your ability to work through it.
Optimists see challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. They don’t see challenges and ignore them, because you know, “don’t worry! Everything is gonna be alright” (I’m channelling Bob Marley here!)
What has optimism got to do with money
Research shows that optimists are likely to be healthier, happier in their careers and personal relationships and financially more stable than pessimists.
A study by Michelle Gielan, a positive psychology researcher and author of Broadcasting happiness, found that optimists build better financial habits with 90% of the optimists in her test population having saved for major purchases versus 70% of pessimists and nearly two thirds of the optimists having an emergency fund while less than 50% of pessimists did.
Looking at the definition of a realistic optimist, it’s clear this is driven by a sensible understanding that things can and do go wrong and taking a practical approach to preparing for this.
Realistic optimists create the conditions that mitigate against the problems that may occur. They consciously choose a positive approach to the future by taking action now.
What if I’m not naturally an optimist
Well the good news is optimism isn’t a trait you have to be born with. It’s like any other muscle that requires constant practise to build.
And this comes from taking practical steps, like those below, to change the way you see things.
Optimism is rational thinking
Optimism is built from a solution focused frame of mind. This means seeing problems as a puzzle to be solved and not a disaster, reframing the “why is this happening to me” to the “why is this happening for me”.
Optimism is building resilience
Gielan says when faced with setbacks we can get into the unconscious habit of disengaging which becomes “learned helplessness” or the less euphemistically called “giving up”.
Optimism is about building resilience and that means taking action no matter how small. “I don’t know what to do” becomes “I will get support and take the next step”.
Fake it ‘till you make it
So what do you do when crappy reality totally beats down any form of optimism?
Gielan says, “we can train our brain to become more optimistic, and it becomes an upward spiral”, “No matter where you find yourself in terms of your financial picture, if you can engage in optimistic habits, it will lead to better financial outcomes”.
These habits could be as small as saving £5 for the week, or foregoing that Pret lunch for a home sandwich. Small wins are still wins and as Gielan says “when you feel like you’ve had a win, you can move on to the next step, and the next one after that.”