Enthusiasm, what is it? Being in a constant state of happiness, passion, and enthusiasm? Never letting anything get you down. Having life hurdle countless lemons at you and effortlessly concocting barrels of lemonade? These are all nice thoughts, but unfortunately, to most adults and teens; they may seem like a bit of a stretch. With a sense of realism in mind, it’s important to be optimistic and enthusiastic, so let’s look at how to do this, as it does not always happen without effort as discussed in chapter 10 of Ingredients of Outliers: A Recipe for Personal Achievement.
The word “passion” simply seems “enthusiasm, carried to the highest level.” And one of my favorite definitions of enthusiasm came from a man named Gordon Parks. “Enthusiasm,” he wrote, “is the electricity of life. How do you get it? You act enthusiastic until you make it a habit. Enthusiasm is natural; it is being alive, taking the initiative, seeing the importance of what you do, giving it dignity and making what you do important to yourself and to others.” When it’s put in that context, a continual attitude of enthusiasm doesn’t seem as unachievable, or quite as annoying to the realist in most of us.
What Research has found:
Park’s theory is not simply self-proclaimed wisdom. The ‘fake it till you make it’ concept in terms of enthusiasm, actually has some research validity. In fact, a study conducted by Harvard Business School assistant professor Amy J.C. Cuddy, entitled “Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance” shows that it’s possible to influence genuine feelings by simply holding one’s body in high-power postures. For this study 42 male and female participants were randomly assigned to ‘high’ or ‘low’ power pose groups. Saliva samples taken before and after the posing measured testosterone and cortisol levels. The researchers found that high-power poses decreased cortisol (A stress related hormone) by about 25 percent and increased testosterone ( A hormone that increases self esteem)by about 19 percent for both genders. In contrast, low-power poses increased cortisol about 17 percent and decreased testosterone about 10 percent.
See Full presentation here: http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are
Give it a try:
- Hold yourself in an open pose with your arms high and wide or placed firmly on your hips for at least two minutes. (See Diagram below.)
- Recall a happy memory. Perhaps envision yourself in a place of power.
- Release the position and assess the way you feel.
Another way to test the fake it till you make it theory is by filling a room with close friends. Instruct them to all start ‘fake’ laughing for three minutes. Within about a minute we can guarantee that the room will be enveloped in genuine laughter and sense of enthusiasm. Or at the very least have gotten a sufficient fake laugh abdominal workout for the day.
Having enthusiasm and being optimistic about life never hurt anyone.
There are people whose day-to-day existence is worse than the worst day of our lives. Yet they soldier on and make the best of their conditions, their illness, their trials, and their suffering. If they can do this, day in and day out – how can the rest of us not approach life with “can do” enthusiasm, passion, and unyielding optimism?
Believe it or not, there is a downside to perpetual blind optimism, though. It happens when you fail to recognize the danger from a large impediment or barrier because you’re so busy discounting its importance and looking for the silver lining. However, don’t swing so far that you fall victim to the Chicken Little (a/k/a Henny Penny) Syndrome, crying, “the sky is falling” whenever you encounter some minor mishap
On another related note, here is a clip from a student leadership talk for teens and young adults on Optimisim.