The discipline of optimism

In His Own Words

Nate Regier
Nate Regier

Optimism is not just seeing the glass as half full.

It’s about doing what it takes to fill it up.

Optimism is not wishful thinking. Not even a hopeful attitude. Optimism is the discipline of envisioning and pursuing possibility, against the odds.

Optimistic people are this way because they work at it. They don’t just see the glass as half full; they push through to keep filling it so that potential turns into reality.

Optimism takes perseverance, grit, and belief in the power of a vision and of the people pursuing that vision.

Optimism never quits looking for opportunity, potential, the possibility everyone else missed, the faint light at the end of the tunnel.

Here are some tips for developing optimism:

▪ Focus on what’s working: It’s human nature to dwell on what’s broken, missing, or didn’t work. Take time each day, with each project, to list and celebrate what is working or what went well. The more you do it, the better you will become.

▪ Overnight success is “a thousand problems solved”: When asked about the magical success of the movie “Toy Story,” director John Lasseter recounted all the ways in which the movie was doomed from the start: an unlikable main character, the first fully animated motion picture, and the list goes on.

They key to success, he said, was that the team simply solved one problem after another, not focusing on the doom and gloom, but instead on each new problem to solve.

When the going gets tough and the summit seems far away, this orientation is a great way to continue having small successes along the way.

▪ What could go wrong vs. what didn’t go wrong: Recently, Next Element was an exhibitor at a national trade show. Instead of having our exhibit booth shipped via a national hauler, we did it ourselves to save money. We rented a Sprinter van, loaded up our stuff and drove to Colorado.

There were lots of things to worry about, like driving an unwieldy vehicle through urban traffic, in and out of tight parking garages, loading and unloading precious cargo, or where to park the beast. We solved most of these problems and picked up a few bumps and bruises along the way.

On the way home, we narrowly missed colliding with a car that had been rear-ended in the oncoming lane of traffic, careened across the median, rolled, and come to rest directly in front of us. We were the first ones on the scene and were able to help. Nobody was seriously injured.

As we’ve recounted our stories from this trip, we’ve realized that some things went wrong. And, some very big things that could have gone wrong didn’t.

How do you want to remember your life? What went wrong, or what could have gone wrong that didn’t?

Anyone can be an optimist if they are willing to dedicate themselves to the discipline. It doesn’t happen by chance and it doesn’t come for free. But the benefits are well worth it.

Nate Regier is CEO and co-founding owner of Next Element Consulting, a global leadership communication advisory and training firm based in Newton. Contact him at or 316-772-6174.

Interested in writing for “Business Perspectives”? Contact Tom Shine at or 316-268-6268.