This blog is all about optimism, or more precisely the optimism bias. Optimism and the optimism bias as something that I’ve been interested in for many years. I’ve been studying the different levels of optimism that people have and you’ll be happy to know that about 80% of us have the optimism bias. Optimism is something that comes from deep within us. Some of us have barriers to understanding this and some of us live a highly optimistic life. For those of you that look forward to reading our weekly blog, thats it right there. Optimism.
So what is Optimism and why do we have a bias. Optimism is our general feeling of contentment and what our overall outlook on the future is. If we see it as a positive or a negative. The bias is our healthy way of getting through the bad times. The bias helps us keep a tendency to overestimate our likelihood to experience good events or we underestimate our likelihood of experiencing bad events. So we would underestimate our likelihood of suffering from a terminal illness or being in a car accident and on the flip-side we overestimate our longevity or career prospects. So in short we are more optimistic than realistic but we are oblivious to the fact, and thats a good thing.
People with a developed sense of their own Charisma benefit from having good levels of private optimism about their own personal future. They are also able to generate levels of optimism within the people around them. Your mood is infectious and optimistic people like to infect. In business we call this engagement. When an organisation is fully engaged and has a developed sense of it’s own Charisma, that is when success happens. By the way, it doesn’t mean that we think things will magically turn out okay, rather that we have the unique ability to make it happen.
So the question now is this optimism bias good for us?
Controlled experiments have shown Charisma is not only related to success, it leads to success. Charisma, or the optimism ingredient that we are talking about, leads to success academically, in sport, in politics, in business and in our personal lives. And maybe the most surprisingly effective optimism is health if we expect the future to be bright, stress and anxiety are reduced.
So the question springs to mind for me now is how we are managing to maintain optimism in the face of reality. And that’s a really interesting question to be able to ask at this moment in time given that there is so much doom and gloom out there. Unrealistic optimism can lead to risky behavior; financially, organisations faulty planning, thinking the deal is in the bag. The British government for example acknowledged that the optimism bias can make individuals more likely to underestimate the cost and durations of projects. So they adjusted the 2012 olympic total budget for the optimism bias.
We are not born with an understanding of our own biases these have to be identified and worked on. The good news is that becoming aware of optimism and what your bias is doesn’t shatter the illusion, doesn’t make them go away. And this is good because it means we should be able to strike a balance to come up with plans and rules to protect ourselves from unrealistic optimism but the same time remaining hopeful. Thus benefiting from the many fruits of being optimistic, success, health and well-being.
I’ll leave you with this thought the business relevance of Charisma and the optimism bias comes from a very simple question how much of yourself do you bring to work? In many workplaces are people checking their passion, creativity and humor at the door… or are they showing up to work with it? and how can you harness the Charisma in every single person to create a massively successful business?? From yourself and the people you work with and from the customers you have.