The Power of Naive Optimism in Achieving Success and Overcoming Challenges

Feranmi Olaseinde

Hatched by Feranmi Olaseinde

Nov 30, 2023

5 min read


The Power of Naive Optimism in Achieving Success and Overcoming Challenges

Naive optimism, the belief that good outcomes are more likely to happen to you than bad ones in any given situation, can truly change your life. It requires a suspension of disbelief and adopting a positive stance or perspective without familiarizing yourself with the potential obstacles. It's like walking around with blinders on, ignoring everything that could go wrong. Naive optimism is especially helpful at the outset of a massive project or challenge, where confronting the whole picture could discourage you.

Consider starting a business, writing a novel, or completing a triathlon. If you begin thinking about all the problems you'll inevitably have along the way, you won't be motivated to start. Instead, it's best to be optimistic that you will complete the project without considering the obstacles. Even if you don't reach your goal, you'll still be further along than if you had convinced yourself it was impossible from the start. Naive optimism pushes you further towards success, even if you don't make it all the way there each time. It allows you to try new things and pushes you out of your comfort zone because you're not as focused on what could go wrong. By giving yourself the chance, you build confidence and trust in yourself.

This mindset reminds me of the Dun and Krueger effect, where individuals with low skill in a particular area overestimate their ability. Kids are perfect examples of naive optimists. They're optimistic about their abilities and overly so. Despite their lack of life skills, they think they can care for themselves, dress themselves, pour juice, or even cut their hair. This optimism is what builds their skills and allows them to practice until they eventually succeed. Older children also tend to overestimate their abilities, allowing them to have zero fear when trying new things. They eagerly soak up information and learn quickly because they don't possess the self-conscious baggage surrounding ignorance.

Adopting a childlike mindset when learning new things can be helpful. It comes from a desire to learn and forgetting how likely failure will be at first. Overcoming that initial mental hurdle is the most helpful thing naive optimism can do for you. If you act like a naive optimist, you will likely sincerely adopt the attitude over time. Start with small things, like completing everything on your to-do list or believing that your meeting with your boss will go well. This attitude can steep into more influential sectors of your life, even if you don't become the textbook example of a naive optimist. These thought patterns will get you further than if you didn't use them.

Incorporating strategic scheduling into your work routine can also greatly impact your motivation and productivity. Having a consistent hard start and a hard stop for an action, followed by a more pleasant activity, makes the work itself more interesting. This leverages addiction psychology and makes you more likely to want to do the task again in the future. Planning your work in a way that incorporates the principles of fixed interval reward, fixed ratio, variable interval, and variable ratio patterns can make a significant difference.

For example, using a Pomodoro timer to work for a fixed interval of time and rewarding yourself with a pleasant activity afterward can create a sense of anticipation and make the work more interesting. Similarly, setting a goal to complete a certain number of tasks before giving yourself a reward creates a fixed ratio pattern. The variable interval pattern involves rewarding yourself after an undetermined amount of time, such as when you feel you've done enough or when someone else tells you to stop. Lastly, the variable ratio pattern involves rewarding yourself after doing a certain amount of work, but the amount changes each time.

By incorporating these scheduling techniques, you can make your work more enjoyable and increase your motivation to complete tasks. Even if you don't have a strict calendar or planning system, the randomness of your actions still follows one of these schedules. It's important to audit your work tasks and the rewards you give yourself to ensure they align with the most effective scheduling patterns. Additionally, identifying the rewards for not doing work can help lower anxiety and reduce procrastination tendencies.

In conclusion, the power of naive optimism and strategic scheduling can greatly impact your life and productivity. By adopting a positive stance and focusing on the belief that good outcomes are more likely, you can overcome challenges and achieve success. Incorporating the principles of strategic scheduling, such as fixed interval reward and fixed ratio patterns, can make your work more interesting and increase your motivation to complete tasks. Here are three actionable pieces of advice to implement:

  • 1. Embrace a naive optimist mindset: Believe in your ability to succeed, even if the odds seem against you. Start with small tasks and gradually apply this mindset to more significant challenges.
  • 2. Implement strategic scheduling: Create a consistent work routine with hard starts and stops, followed by rewarding activities. Experiment with fixed interval reward, fixed ratio, variable interval, and variable ratio patterns to find what works best for you.
  • 3. Audit your work tasks and rewards: Assess the tasks you need to complete and the rewards you give yourself. Ensure they align with effective scheduling patterns and consider the rewards for not doing work to help reduce anxiety and procrastination.

By combining the power of naive optimism and strategic scheduling, you can overcome obstacles, increase motivation, and achieve your goals. Remember, even if you don't always reach your desired outcome, the belief in your ability to succeed will push you further than the belief in failure.

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