Asked what aspect of their business they find the most arduous, most entrepreneurs will say marketing and selling. Many people take rejection personally and find it hard to bounce back after hearing the word "No." Yet your ability to succeed in your own business is directly related to your resilience after a setback--which is determined by your sense of optimism.

Social scientists have learned a great deal about this quality of optimism. After 30 years of research, Dr. Martin Seligman and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania put their finger on what we've intuitively known for years: that talent alone is not enough.

You've probably heard that 80 percent of sales comes from 20 percent of the sales force. These 20 percent do not have more ability, talent or knowledge--they have optimism, a belief that, despite everything, they can achieve what they want. You may have the desire and the ability to succeed, but unless you have the expectation that you will succeed, you will fall short of your desires and abilities.

A positive attitude has also been shown to affect health outcomes. In his book, Learned Optimism, Dr. Seligman points to research showing that optimists have one-quarter the average risk of serious depression and much higher chances of surviving serious illness. A recent study of 586 adults at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Promotion showed that optimistic people were half as likely as pessimists to experience heart problems.

 

The Optimistic Networker

You wouldn't be in network marketing if you were not an optimist--if you didn't believe that the power to control your life lies in your own efforts, that sooner or later you will succeed, and that the future will be better than the present. Salespeople almost always score high on tests for optimism--even higher than athletes and managers.

The research is clear: a salesperson may have all the confidence in the world, have great skills at networking, know the product or service inside out, and be able to close the majority of deals--but if she can't bounce back after rejection, she will not be a high performer.

Optimists and pessimists have a different explanatory style: they vary in how they explain setbacks and triumphs to themselves. Pessimists see a setback as an indication of how things always are for them (permanent), as a signal that it will happen in other areas of their life (pervasive), and believe that the deficiency lies in them personally, rather than external factors (personal).

Optimists, on the other hand, will say to themselves, "This setback is temporary--it's caused by external events and factors, and is no reflection on me." This sets the stage for them to see adversity as a challenge, knowing that they will eventually succeed.

This belief that that adversity is short-lived and manageable enables them to take action to overcome obstacles on the road to success. They see failure simply as a stepping stone or detour on the way to success.

More Ways to Boost Your O.Q.
ACT “AS IF.”
This tried and true recipe for getting through presentations, job interviews and social situations applies here: put on a happy face, act as if you will succeed … and you probably will.

STAY HEALTHY.
Nothing boosts your energy as much as regular exercise, sufficient sleep, and a nourishing diet.

BE WITH OPTIMISTIC PEOPLE.
Stay away from grouchy or mean people. Remember, misery loves company.

WATCH YOUR POSTURE.
Stand up straight and look the world in the eye. You will feel better, and others will respond in a more cooperative way.

CONNECT WITH NATURE.
Get outdoors when you can. Have flowers and potted plants in your office.

MAKE ROOM FOR FRIENDS, FAMILY, FUN.

How to Boost Your O.Q. (Optimism Quotient)

The good news is, optimism can be learned. To turn around pessimistic thoughts and raise your O.Q., make a habit of challenging your internal dialogue.

Most people will vigorously defend themselves from a verbal attack by another person, yet allow negative self-talk to sabotage their efforts from within. The trick is to regard these internal criticisms as if they had been uttered by an external rival whose mission in life is to make you miserable--and then dispute them.

Here are some questions with which to challenge those pessimistic thoughts:

 

 

Optimism, of course, has to be tempered by a sensible dose of realism. When dealing with issues of safety or long-term financial planning, it's only prudent to lean towards the conservative side. But when you're dealing with other people, building your network, and especially when facing challenges and difficulties, it pays to be an optimist!

 

 

PAMELA THORNE
(pamelathorne@mindspring.com) is founder of People Skills Consulting (www.peopleskillsconsulting.com), a training organization that trains
managers in stress management,
conflict resolution and leadership.