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Want to succeed in life? Here are 9 proven ways to do it

Here's how to transcend wishful thinking and embrace life with a healthy does of both pragmatism and optimism

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In today's ever-evolving landscape of career development, one thing has become abundantly clear: Success isn't solely about the hours we put in; it's about the mindset we bring to the table. 

Throughout my career journey as well as being a student of history, I've witnessed time and time again the transformative power of optimism in achieving professional milestones. It's not just any optimism, though – it's what I like to call realistic optimism, which can make all the difference between success and failure in your career.

Realistic optimism goes beyond mere positive thinking; it's a mindset that blends practicality with hopefulness. It's about facing challenges head-on while maintaining a constructive outlook. As emerging leaders in today's organizations, embracing realistic optimism isn't just beneficial; I believe it is absolutely essential for navigating the complexities of the modern workplace.

When we approach our professional lives with a realistic, optimistic mindset, we're better equipped to tackle obstacles and seize opportunities. By acknowledging the realities of our circumstances and actively seeking solutions, we not only enhance our own performance but also contribute to the overall success and innovation of our organizations. It's this proactive approach that can set you apart and propel you toward your goals in today's dynamic business environment. Let’s look at 9 ways to become a realistic optimist.  

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1. Understanding Realistic Optimism

Realistic optimism transcends the realm of wishful thinking, embodying a strategic mindset that integrates hope with a pragmatic assessment of reality. It entails a confident pursuit of self-improvement and a proactive approach to shaping one's circumstances. In essence, realistic optimists chart their course by acknowledging the present while envisioning a brighter future.

2. Drawing Lessons from Resilience

In my book "The Perfect 10," I delve into the profound lessons of realistic optimism through the stories of Sir Ernest Shackleton and Viktor Frankl. Frankl's ability to find meaning in the present moment enabled him to endure the darkest days of captivity under the Nazis. Similarly, Shackleton's remarkable mental fortitude enabled him to defy overwhelming odds and lead his team to safety.

What I call realistic optimism goes beyond mere positive thinking; it's a mindset that blends practicality with hopefulness. It's about facing challenges head-on while maintaining a constructive outlook.

These stories vividly demonstrate how resilience of spirit can empower individuals to surmount seemingly insurmountable challenges—a valuable lesson for recent college grads and young professionals embarking on a career journey, where the future awaits as an open canvas ready to be painted. It’s true -- your own mindset can hold the key to determining how far you will go in shaping your future and realizing your aspirations.

During your career, you'll inevitably face a range of challenges. Whether it's navigating a competitive job market, dealing with rejection, or handling workplace conflicts, the early stages of your career can be tough. However, by embracing the mindset of realistic optimism, you can turn these challenges into opportunities for growth and advancement.

Woman looking stressed at her desk, eyes closed

During your career, you'll inevitably face a range of challenges. However, by embracing the mindset of realistic optimism, you can turn these challenges into opportunities for growth and advancement. (iStock)

If the job search isn’t meeting up to your expectations, instead of giving up, you can channel Shackleton's determination, seeing each setback as a chance to move closer to your goals. Similarly, when you're confronted with a tight project deadline, you can adopt Frankl's perspective, finding purpose in the present moment and using it to fuel your determination to excel.

3. Strategies for Becoming a Realistic Optimist

Realistic optimists share certain key traits. Here are some practical steps you can take to shift your mindset towards becoming a realistic optimist—applicable to your everyday experiences in the workplace.

4. Balance Realism and Optimism

Approach challenges with a balanced perspective, combining optimism with a realistic view of the situation. Avoid overly positive outlooks that ignore the difficulties you face.

Realistic optimism transcends the realm of wishful thinking, embodying a strategic mindset that integrates hope with a pragmatic assessment of reality.

Realistic optimism transcends the realm of wishful thinking, embodying a strategic mindset that integrates hope with a pragmatic assessment of reality. (iStock)

5. Exercise Selective Focus 

Channel your energy into productive activities, focusing on finding solutions rather than dwelling on setbacks. Maintain forward momentum by prioritizing constructive endeavors.

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6. Set Achievable Goals

Establish objectives that are challenging yet attainable, fostering a sense of accomplishment while guarding against feelings of disappointment. Striking this balance is crucial for maintaining motivation.

Always remember that success isn't solely determined by the hours we invest, but by the mindset we cultivate. 

7. Look for the Light in Every Tunnel 

Strive to maintain a positive outlook, seeking out the silver lining even in challenging situations. However, remember to temper optimism with a realistic assessment of the circumstances, ensuring that your positive attitude is grounded in practicality.

8. Whenever Possible, Have Fun 

Integrate humor into your professional interactions to lighten the mood, alleviate stress, and build connections with colleagues. Embracing levity can enhance team cohesion and resilience in the face of challenges.

Realistic optimism, the fusion of practicality and hopefulness, can propel you on your journey toward your own version of success.

Realistic optimism, the fusion of practicality and hopefulness, can propel you on your journey toward your own version of success. (iStock, courtesy of user dragana991)

9. Full Circle

In closing, as you continue to navigate the intricate pathways of your own career, always remember that success isn't solely determined by the hours we invest, but by the mindset we cultivate. 

Realistic optimism, the fusion of practicality and hopefulness, can propel you on your journey toward your own version of success. Optimism grounded in reality can be the fuel you need to drive you towards your aspirations, empowering you to transform challenges into opportunities and setbacks into stepping stones to success.

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New York Times best-selling author Dave Liniger is the co-founder of RE/MAX, the Denver-based global real estate franchise and the author of "The Perfect 10."

via June 7th 2024