Coach Boris? Mindset and the fallacy of optimism

leadership development Coaching 2 min read
Coach Boris? Johnson Prime minister
Boris Johnson: Be positive and optimistic and all will be well...

We live in interesting times! I have been reflecting on what it would be like to Coach Boris (I love a challenge). Regardless of your politics and what you personally think of him, It has been fascinating to watch the British Prime Minister. In particular, I was struck by his recent speeches with an emphasis on a need for optimism. Now, being Scottish, I recognise that being positive is not often associated with the Scots character thanks to unhelpful national stereotype nonsense! However, this particular brand of 'optimism' as described by Boris is not one I necessarily recognise as a growth mindset trait - in fact, I consider it to be the polar opposite. Let's dive in, and I will explain why.

As a Clarity Coach, I work coaching senior leaders on their Mindset and resilience. When working with clients, one of the questions I often get asked is 'Why can't I just be more positive'? The challenge in this is the very nature of thought of itself. Psychologists think that we have between 50,000 and 80,000 thoughts a day. We can not control our thinking but recognising that our feelings are caused by our thinking at that given moment. When was the last time you tried to stop your thoughts?

This simple understanding can empower us in terms of what we choose to do next as a response to a given situation. We need to take time to understand ourselves and trust our innate capacity for wisdom to emerge. Coaching helps unlock this capacity - useful when we can't see the wood for the trees as we are living busy, hectic lives. My job as a coach is to unlock the wisdom that lies within the individual.

In terms of Mindset, we must seek robust feedback to improve our performance in any given situation. If we exist solely in a world of false positivity not based on any facts or insight, this can damage our capacity for self-awareness. This, in turn, can decrease our ability to allow innate wisdom to surface and impair our resilience. In fact, cheekily I would suggest that this world exists - I'm looking at you Instagram (or as I heard someone call it recently, Insta-Sham).

How a coach can unlock innate wisdom and avoid instasham
When was the last time you were truly honest on social media?

This lack of insight can damage our overall resilience and our recovery from failure or making mistakes. Not utilising feedback from staff, friends, colleagues and coaches can lead us to be under-challenged or more troubling, create overconfidence.

So back to Boris. I would argue that superficially we might need a feel good boost from optimistic thinking. However, any bounce from this is bound to be short-lived. To achieve true happiness and fulfilment, we need to develop insight and profound wisdom. We also need more feedback in the form of evidence informed analysis of the situations we find ourselves in as individuals and as a broader society rather than blithe optimism.

I would love to hear from you. Let's talk! Coaching can provide supportive but high challenge to you or your teams. I would love to work with you. To book me for executive coaching or a leadership development session with your team, please contact me below.