In order to create your best work, you first must believe you can.
That requires optimism, but it’s not the only way in which optimism can be the secret weapon that helps you do better work.
Following are four optimistic beliefs to embrace if you want to improve the quality of your creations.
1. Optimists Believe Everything Can Be Improved
An optimist sees potential for improvement in everything —in the work we create, the creations of others, and even in things that are already successful.
This is a powerful mindset because it’s the belief something can be made better which fuels innovation, encourages the questioning of conventional wisdom, and ultimately helps us identify opportunities.
If you don’t believe something can be improved, it never will be.
One caution as you embrace this belief.
While it’s beneficial to recognize everything CAN be improved, it doesn’t mean everything NEEDS to be improved.
The goal isn’t to create a situation where you tell yourself your work is never good enough — that’s a pessimist’s approach that leads to frustration, unhappiness, and eventual failure.
Find the sweet spot where you identify ways to improve work without taking for granted the success of what you’ve done so far.
2. Optimists Assume People’s Intentions Are Good
An optimist is able to separate people’s intentions from their actions.
It’s tempting to write people off based on their questionable actions in a business or personal setting, but the optimistic approach is to assume their initial actions aren’t necessarily reflective of the person’s intentions.
Many people do things they shouldn’t do, say things they shouldn’t say, and behave in ways that are unacceptable. But often, those failures are rooted more in mistaken action then evil intention.
It’s more likely somebody miscalculated the impact of their action on your work than they set out to purposefully damage it.
So give them the benefit of the doubt.
When you choose to separate a person’s actions from their intentions, you learn to be more patient, less sensitive, and less likely to retaliate in ways that will escalate the situation and turn what could be a minor setback into a major obstacle for your work.
One caution as you adopt this approach.
An optimistic view of people’s intentions doesn’t mean you should allow people to take advantage of you and if somebody’s actions are repeatedly damaging to your work then you should respond accordingly.
But remember: No matter what somebody does, you have more control over how it impacts your work than they do.
Don’t let them to usurp that control by assuming they’re out to ruin you — they’re probably not.
3. Optimists Take Criticism As Coaching
Nobody likes to have their work criticized — not even an optimist.
But optimists are able to see criticism as coaching and take it as feedback which can help you improve your work.
Sports are a helpful analogy here.
The greatest athletes of all time have had coaches criticize them forever and often in over-the-top, aggressive ways.
They may not always like it, but they understand coaches who point out their mistakes are not doing so to personally attack them. They’re doing it to make them better.
Your work will not improve from simply being told how great it is and what you do right. The quickest path to improvement comes from learning what you do wrong and how to correct it.
Criticism is more valuable than compliments — even if it feels worse.
One caveat to this belief: Just because you should take criticism as coaching doesn’t mean that all criticism is valid.
Other people’s assessment of your work may not be correct, the criticism you receive may come from people unqualified to give it, and when it comes to random Internet comments?
Well, ignore them.
When you get criticism, consider the source before blindly accepting it. But if it comes from a person who you believe has expertise in the subject matter and a true intent to make you better, don’t push back so hard against it.
4. Optimists Treat Failure As Temporary
All the optimism in the world won’t prevent failure.
Failure is an unavoidable aspect of work and one which you’ll encounter over and over again no matter how talented or hard working you may be.
Optimists acknowledge this, but don’t lose sight of another truth — failure is a temporary state.
No matter how epic your failure may be, it’s ultimately a blip in what will be a long body of work filled with highs and lows along the way.
The optimist sees a failure as an opportunity to learn and a step toward an eventual success.
It’s not a rut to get stuck in, but rather a springboard to launch you to new heights.