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Optimism as Professional Development


Over the holidays I read several articles about resolutions. There seems to be no shortage of materials written on this subject given the time of year. Some who write positively about setting resolutions suggest that achieving them requires optimism.

Having just completed a year with fully-achieving a resolution (to do something new every day), I am energized and want to be able to say definitely that fulfilling resolutions are possible, even if they are hard to do.

So, one of my resolutions for 2015 is to cultivate an optimistic mindset in a way that doing new things might not have. I am viewing this as professional development.

I’ve never taken a poll but I’m pretty sure my friends and colleagues would not say I am an optimist. Optimism is not easy for me but perhaps that’s because I am in HR. I am not sure that HR professionals are the most optimistic lot, sort of like you might not think of actuaries as people who love comedy. Over the next few paragraphs, let me explain why.

While HR professionals work hard to be on the forefront of business strategy, we are often left to plan and clean up other people’s messes. It is hard to be optimistic when you have to deal with cases of fraud, selfishness, cheapness, under-resourced projects, incompetence or just plain stupidity. There’s a lot of stupidity in the human condition. A lot. Let me not go on in any detail about some of the crazy stuff I encountered this past year. I sometimes wonder why there aren’t TV shows about life in human resources. What saved me from losing my mind at times this year was my “new every day” resolution.

One of the articles I read on optimism was in Lifetime’s magazine, Life Experience on How to Reinvent Yourself. One of their suggestions to become more optimistic is to give up your personality. Yes, that’s right, give up your personality. What I learned from the article is that the word personality comes from the word “persona” which is Latin for mask. The article suggests that your personality is not you, and you can’t be optimistic when you’re not yourself.

In blogging, I have developed a persona. There are several reasons for this, but for one, many of the circumstances I write about are highly confidential and so I have to sometimes change the details around so make who or what I am writing about less obvious. I also need to add a flair for the dramatic to make the case more compelling. I often find myself digging deep into experiences or examples sometimes decades old in order to protect the innocent but demonstrate a point.

More important, as a blogger sometimes it is important to create misdirection about myself through artistic license. I know that for years I’ve been writing that those HR bloggers I’ve met first online are just the same in person. While, this is true, I also know by getting to know them better that they have the same frustrations as the rest of us that they don’t write about–like dogs and cats that cough up hairballs on their new rugs. (Well, maybe they do but that isn’t the point).

Time travel is a part of my persona but I realize that it creates the illusion that I’m always on the road, always meeting famous people and always consulting on the highest profile projects. That’s only true sometimes or rarely. The optimistic side of me says that it is possible to live that in real life but on a daily basis that isn’t me, but it can be.

Back in my real life, the challenge for me is how to separate that persona for the purpose of developing optimism and to be able to convey optimism. When I use old stories and live in reveries, I am holding myself back. I can’t ignore the hairballs and they’re good material. Better yet, maybe I need some different material. Perhaps for me recognizing this is my first step toward an optimistic future.

What about you?


  1. Apart from setting up a resolution and struggling every now and then in order to fulfill those, even if they are hard to do so, we can also use the same concept for each and every aspect of our career.
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