Recently I met a friend at a local coffee shop. While we sat down to chat, I politely asked if I could buy him a cup of coffee. He replied, “I don’t drink slave coffee.” I was stunned. I felt judged. I wanted to defend myself.

On another occasion with a different friend, I offered a piece of chocolate to her while we went for a walk. She replied, “Uh, I don’t eat chocolate that’s mixed with the blood, sweat, and tears of children.” What? I was amazed at her word choice! I stared at her and wanted to say “What the hell is going on? Why is everyone so freakin’ dramatic and negative?” I tried to shake-off how negative I felt and kept walking beside her. I was not inspired. I just felt dejected.

I walked into a local church and the pastor on stage was shouting about our president, our country, and our city. His negativity was impacting me. How could someone expect to inspire the church if everything he is saying is pessimistic and judgmental? I walked out of the service and into the foyer of the building. I promised myself that I would never be a pessimistic world changer.

Photo Courtesy of Rana Usman (creative commons)

Photo Courtesy of Rana Usman (creative commons)

I want to inspire others to be more than they were the day before. I want people to believe that they can live for noble causes. I know there has got to be a better way to awaken the hearts of my peers. That’s when I realized… I want to make a difference NOT just make a point.

Optimism makes a difference. Here are 3 steps to snap out of your negativity and pessimism. I practice each of these steps on a daily basis. It helps me remain positive in the midst of difficult situations.

1. Take stock of your own negativity.

Take a moment to look inward. Are you responding to negativity with more negativity? Are you the kind of person that likes to make people feel bad so you can make a point? Do you put yourself or others down when a mistake has been made? Are you extremely hard on yourself? Your thoughts, words, and actions can link together creating a cycle of negativity that may be unknown to you and is often hard to break.

The easiest way to find out is to ask your spouse, children, friends, or co-workers. Also, consider starting a private note on your phone, and list the times that you have acted or thought pessimistically towards yourself or others. You must be aware of this pattern because it is a vital step to becoming a person of positive influence.

2. Energize your internal world.

Negative thoughts and people will always impact you – do not believe that you are over the influence. When you experience negativity, get out, breathe, and reboot your heart and mind. Consider asking to be excused from a bad conversation. Consider walking out of the petty meeting for a few minutes. Remain quiet and do not add more negativity!

However, you should not only avoid negativity, but you must input positive messages into your internal world. Listening to your favorite podcast, reading an informative book, watching an inspirational movie or documentary are all awesome ways to fill your mind with optimism. Schedule lunch with a good friend and speak life to one another! Reflect on the positive. Tune out the cynicism and fill your own life with hopeful, life-giving thoughts.

3. Speak positively of others and circumstances.

Never join the gripe session because it will only legitimize the action. It may be true that someone or something is not functioning appropriately, but speaking negatively does not change it. However, speaking highly and truthfully will help change the point of view. Confront inappropriate actions privately and continue to speak well of others publically. It is fun to brag about others!

If someone has done well, then share it. You get more of what you affirm! Let’s face it, as a leader, your opinion counts to your team, so share the positive opinions lavishly, genuinely, and frequently. You can be a thought-leader, opinion-shaper, and decision-maker simply by changing how you speak of others!

I have been implementing these 3 simple principles for the past few years in my role as Area Director for InterVarsity in North Texas and Oklahoma. I took inventory of my thoughts, words, and actions as a leader. I chose to utilize language that provoked growth, inspired risk-taking, and rewarded creativity. I became more self-aware. I listened to podcasts and read books about leading change and tuned out naysayers. I energized my internal world. I never stopped encouraging my amazing and boldly audacious team members! I spoke highly of them everywhere I went.

Well, what was the result? In 3 short years, my area went from being the smallest in the region to the largest in the region in every aspect – staff members, campuses, chapters, and students involved. Sure, there were other elements that added to that success, but I do believe that becoming a MORE OPTIMISTIC world changer had much to do it.

Joy is contagious – especially when connected to something worthwhile! Even in the darkest of places, optimism will spark new life! Hatred breeds more hatred. Remember that optimism is vital – I think it is the secret sauce to becoming a world changer.

For further reading consider reading this post by Michael Hyatt.

What are other ways we can become more optimistic world changers? I’d love to hear what you want to add to this list. Please comment below.