What a Strategic Optimist Needs to Know

Information from over ten years of research in the areas of Positive Psychology and Positive Organizational Psychology are being used in businesses and organizations to create Strategic Optimism. This same type of optimism is equally important in your personal life.

Strategic Optimism means having a positive expectation for the future that contributes to flourishing and well-being. Human flourishing is described as the sum of positive emotions, positive actions and positive meaning. For instance, when your emotions are positive, you are more likely to take positive actions that add meaning to your life and you flourish.

Kim Cameron outlines four strategies in his book, Positive Leadership: Strategies for Extraordinary Performance (2008) that directly contribute to flourishing and Strategic Optimism:

  • Positive Climate
  • Positive Communication
  • Positive Relationships
  • Positive Meaning.

Also, optimism is part of  Emotional Intelligence (EI) which is different from your Intellectual Intelligence. This means optimism can be learned. Studies indicate EI helps you be more effective in your career and have more fulfilling relationships and a personal life. This includes being optimistic.

The benefits of strategic optimism are linked to:

  • Perseverance
  • Good morale and popularity
  • Effective problem solving
  • Academic athletic, military, occupational and political success
  • Positive mood
  • Good health and a long life.

‚ÄčThese benefits help you to be effective and enjoy meaningful relationships that sustain a rewarding life.

You may wonder why strategic optimism is so important and what role negativity or pessimism has in your life. Research indicates negativity can lead to:

  • Depression
  • Passivity
  • Failure
  • Social estrangement

While all of these threaten your ability to flourish in life, there is one type of pessimism called Defensive Pessimism that is helpful to some people. This is a strategy some use when they are anxious. It can help manage their anxiety so they are more productive.

Defensive Pessimism does this by lowering their expectations to help prepare for the worst. If you want to try doing this, play through all the bad things that might happen (a worst-case analysis). This may help you focus away from emotions so you can plan and act effectively. If your anxiety increases when you try this, Defensive Pessimism doesn't work for you. You are better off being a Strategic Optimist.

Strategic Optimism sets high expectations that actively lets you avoid thinking too much about negative things that might happen. It allows you to take action on your goals. If true strategic optimists set lower expectations or play through possible outcomes too much, their anxiety increases, and their performance decreases.

Yes, there really are bad things that can happen in the world. Denying them or their importance is not usually helpful. When they occur, you need the courage it will take to get through the difficulty. That is when encouragement can be helpful.

Remember moods and emotions are contagious. They impact leadership, job performance, decision-making, creativity, turnover, teamwork, negotiations, and your personal life.

The kind of optimism that is most beneficial for leaders is referred to as Strategic Optimism. It works best when anxiety is low or not present. When the future can be changed, leaders need to be positive by being Strategically Optimistic.

Think about the next several weeks. What is one thing that may be challenging? Write down 3 positive expectations or ways you will benefit from completing the challenge. Then begin to think of the steps you need to take to successfully handle the change.

Comment below on how this mindset works for you. If you have questions about how to be a strategic optimist, contact me for a Lifestyle Transition Conversation.

Until next time,


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