Did you know that being optimistic can significantly influence your physical and mental health, while also helping you to cope with the everyday pressures of work and life? Importantly as a contractor, optimism has been strongly associated with success in the workplace. And while we’re not all born optimistic, by adapting our thinking and behaviours, we can increase our level of optimism. The trick is to train our brains to focus on the positives in life, particularly when faced with stressful situations we encounter along the way, or when trying to self-direct change. Even better, develop a habit of generating vivid positive mental imagery of your future. Scientists from The University of Western Australia who examined people’s thought patterns when their mind wanders, found a link to their level of optimism and happiness. It is estimated that our minds can spend up to half of our waking life wandering away from the present moment, particularly when we are bored or when a thought is prioritised by the brain to be more important than what we are currently doing. In a study led by Dr Julie Ji from UWA’s School of Psychological Science, and published in the journal Psychological Research, more than 40 participants were asked to complete a simple 45-minute sustained attention task on the computer, designed to be boring in order to encourage minds to wander. The computer task also allowed participants to record the occurrence of mind wandering each time it happened, including whether their minds had wandered to the future or past, whether their thoughts involved mental pictures or words only, and how negative or positive the thoughts were. Dr Ji said people who were less likely to imagine positive aspects of the future when mind wandering were also less optimistic about the future, which was in turn linked to higher levels of negative mood (sadness, anxiety, unhappiness). “These findings are important because although we know that being optimistic about the future is really important for our mental and physical health, we don’t know much about what contributes to our day-to-day levels of optimism,” Dr Ji said. Often, our emotions and behaviours follow our beliefs, so it’s vital to be aware of the images you hold of yourself and shift these if necessary. Here are seven steps to help you create positive mental images that will encourage optimism and inspire positive change: 1. Decide on your end goal. 2. Write down each step needed to realistically reach it. 3. Use multi-sensory imagery (seeing, hearing, sensing, smelling, tasting, as well as the feeling of moving) to imagine yourself reaching your goal. 4. Focus on both the observable (external) and the internal (emotions etc) changes. 5. As barriers to your goal present themselves, concretise them and imagine leaving them behind. 6. Use affirming, success-oriented language that is grounded in the present moment. 7. Record yourself delivering the imagery. Help Yourself Managing life as a contractor can be challenging so it’s vital that you maximise your chances by maintaining optimism. At the Ayers Group we’re here to help you by relieving you of administrative stress. We can assist with your contractual agreements, invoicing and compliance. We can also connect you with experts in finance, novated leasing, tax and more so that you can get on with the job of engaging with your clients and growing your wealth. Contact an expert at the Ayers Group today.