I was listening to a podcast the other day and learned a new concept that I needed to share. It’s called disciplined optimism. What it means is that you are focused on your outcomes while having a clear understanding of the facts of your current reality. It’s the discipline of taking stock of the challenges you’re facing knowing that you’ll find a way to prevail. Isn’t that the best? I’m so excited by this concept because it’s what my book, Raise Your BAR, is all about. And now someone has put a name to it. Very exciting!
Here’s why this is so important. We have so many challenges in our daily lives and there is so much negativity coming at us from every direction, we need to be honest with ourselves about what is happening AND maintain our ability to reframe this negativity into something we can control and something that motivates us to succeed. People can tell you it can’t be done, you should quit while you’re ahead, or you’re just not good enough. If you accept that negativity from the outside world, then you are heading down the wrong path. If you sit down and be honest with yourself about what difficulties you might face while maintaining a positive mindset on the outcome, then the creativity needed on how to overcome any obstacle begins to flow. If you did this, then you would be practicing disciplined optimism. Most people practice helplessness or hopelessness.
Learned helplessness is when we try things and no matter how many times we try, we always fail. Animals learn helplessness when they try to escape from a pen that has an electrical fence. After trying to escape and getting zapped, the animal stops trying and the electrical fence can be shut off. The animal assumes it’s stuck. The same thing happens with people. If we keep trying over and over and we don’t get a result, we often stop trying. We’ve learned to be helpless. Often times, we haven’t really tried all the possibilities because we don’t have disciplined optimism.
Learned hopelessness is when make up our minds that we have no ability to change any of our circumstances and this is permanent. We accept whatever job we have. We deal with our relationships the way they are. We complain about how the world is and how everything “out there” is to blame. We don’t accept responsibility for our lives and we give up. Hopelessness has neither optimism or discipline.
In NLP, we have a great technique to make sure you are practicing disciplined optimism. It’s called the Disney Process. And yes, it’s named after Walt Disney himself.
In the Disney Process, you need to start your thinking with the dream. By being a dreamer first, you are allowing yourself to focus on your outcome in a positive fashion. So, whatever situation you are facing, start by dreaming about the goal and get excited about it. This is the optimism part of the disciplined optimism. Next, be a realist. This is where you face the brutal facts of where you are versus where you need to be. This is the disciplined part of the disciplined optimism. Next, you want to be the critic. Take a good hard look at the dreamer’s dream and the realist’s facts and pick them apart. Is the realist making up “facts” that aren’t true or not including facts that should be included? Is the dreamer not dreaming big enough or dreaming too big? For most of us, one of these roles comes very easy and the others are more difficult. To be a true success, you need to balance the dreamer, the realist and critic in your mind. Too much reality means that you will never accomplish your goals because you will fall victim of learned helplessness. Too much critic and you’ll give up completely and be hopeless. Too much dreamer and nothing ever gets done. All the roles play an equal part. The key to disciplined optimism is balancing each internally.
I’ve been practicing disciplined optimism for about 11 weeks now. I had surgery which caused me to stop exercising for 7 weeks. The only thing I could do was walk. Even though I was walking 10km by the end of those 7 weeks, I found that I had gained about 5kg of unwanted fat. For 4 weeks now, I’ve been working out 6-days per week. My dream is to fit into all my clothes again and feel light, flexible and fit. My reality is that I can only fit into 2 pairs of jeans and I’ve been wearing sweatpants almost every day for 3 months. The critic knows that the dreamer thinks the dream will happen faster than it will. The critic also knows that the realist tends to focus too much on the reality and causes frustration and the burning desire to just give up. The discipline is to keep working out and eating right while staying steadfast on my outcome to wear a bikini again. I’m optimistic about the outcome and very disciplined about the action. For me, it’s all about raising my BAR.