Hope is optimistic discontent. Every act of leadership is an act of optimism.
Pessimists can’t lead.
Any form of contentment that induces slumber degrades you. Be content with your present and discontent with your future.
“Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.” Thomas A. Edison
10 expressions of optimistic discontent:
- Focus on the next step not the final destination. Big dreams without next steps are futility.
- Enjoy success but let it go. Maintain a forward-facing posture.
- Leverage current opportunities for service and scan the horizon for new.
- Feel gratitude for your growth and discontent with your level of skill and expertise.
- Ignore “can’t do” people, but don’t bury your head in the sand. Explore potential problems optimistically. Step up. Don’t give up.
- Believe you can rise to new challenges with the help of others.
- Be discontent with your contribution to others; optimistic about your capacity to contribute more.
- Pull the trigger when you’re 70% to 80% certain.
- Stop behaviors that don’t work. Repeating the same mistake indicates dependence on ineffective behaviors. When you’ve been trying to fix a problem, but it persists, don’t blame the problem.
- Stop burning energy beating yourself up because you screwed up. Pessimistic discontent ties weights to your feet.
Gratitude requires contentment. Passion requires discontent.
5 ways to ignite optimistic discontent in others:
Often the thing that changes us is a person who believes in us more than we believe in ourselves.
- Accept people where they are. Discontent isn’t about rejecting or belittling. You can’t be antagonistic and exercise positive influence at the same time.
- Help people see they matter by appreciating their strengths.
- Explore new applications of their strengths and talents. What about…?
- Build on small successes rather than criticizing because they could have been more.
- Talk about purpose before extending challenge.
How might contentment go wrong?
How might optimism and discontent come together?
**I’m dipping my toe in live video streaming.
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I struggle with how to show acceptance with who someone is while also encouraging them to be discontent in these ways. How do you personally do this one on one? Got an example?
Hi James. Great question. I find I’m frequently showing acceptance – celebrating strengths or talent – AND offering new challenges and opportunities.
I noticed this for the first time a few years ago when I challenged a leader to find a new challenge. He was already very active and successful. We met for coffee and I honored his achievements. The I said, “I wonder if you might be selling yourself short. You’re just drifting. Is it time for a new challenge?”
I didn’t know what the new challenge was. But, in a couple of weeks he found it. He resigned from one area of service and took on a new one. His impact has grown exponentially since.
Don’t get the impression that I did anything remarkable. I just touched him with a bit of optimistic discontent. 🙂
Glad you asked.
Dan you really inspire me, i´m a Motivator and talk about this kind its really difficult but this greats thoughts helps me a lot, God bless you man.
Agreed! This came up recently in a workshop on giving good feedback. At the end of a rotation, what do you tell a resident who is not bad, and not great? They seem to be just going through the motions.
You get curious, and invite them to do the same. What are they passionate about? What would they like most to contribute to our profession? How does this work we do align with their personal goals and values?
Someone argued it’s too late to ask those questions at the end of a rotation. I disagree–it’s never too late to seek and live your purpose! Asking these questions of trainees may prepare them for their futures as well as or better than teaching them technical skills.
You can’t change who someone is. Accepting someone where they are does not mean acceptance of that place. It means honoring their place on their journey. Find out what a person wants and you find the discontent. Help them find ways to acheive it and then encourage them to keep pushing the bar further along.
I’m reading this 2 days before speaking at our Leadership Community gathering. The topic couldn’t be more applicable. Blessings, Dan.
Thanks Brent. I’m sure you’re going to serve well. Best wishes.
Looking forward to your live streaming. Looks like you’ll have 3000 followers by noon! May God richly bless this next endeavor.
Thanks Paul. It’s an experiment. I’ve done three. Frankly, there’s a steep learning curve but I’m enjoying the ride.
So thankful for the mentor who saw more in me than I saw in myself. He ignited the belief in me that I could achieve whatever I set my mind and heart upon. Learned early to ignore the nay sayers. Rarely do they have suggestions about how you might accomplish something differently, only that it cannot be done. Great post Dan.
Thanks Vicki. I’m glad you shared a bit of your story. Isn’t it great? Plus, I think these experiences expand our ability to believe in others.
Dan–great insights. I especially resonate to “You can’t be antagonistic and exercise positive influence at the same time.” Thanks for spelling out this principle about the attitude and orientation of the leaders heart. Wish I had learned this by watching others lead well– instead of via the school of hard knocks. Reminds me that I depend on the grace of others as I lead.
Thanks Scott. I think I’m still learning that antagonism, frustration, and discontent aren’t an end in themselves. 🙂 Best for the journey.
As always, this is just so stinkin’ profound. I want to be better today than yesterday, but not as good as tomorrow! This post should be the manifesto of every leader!
Thanks so much Brian. It’s so great to talk about simple ideas that make a difference in our leadership.
Love your quote: “Gratitude requires contentment. Passion requires discontent”. I think you have define both so well and the contrast is striking and bang on. I think there is a time for gratitude and a time for passion. The trick for me is to acknowledge both and move forward with discontent to fan my passion. Thanks for the ‘aha’ moment.
There is so much good advice in the lists you have included in this post to advance change initiatives and help get everyone move in the same direction. By highlighting strengths, asking the right questions, beginning with the why (purpose), and pinpointing the next steps, we can then build on each step and focus on what we CAN do instead of what doesn’t work or what we can’t do.
Your post struck just the right balance between contentment + restlessness. I’m simultaneously grateful for where I am today, and inspired to continue improving. Thank you.
Great Dan! Discontentment is the causation for change. It does not matter if it is the color of your car or the style of your hair, discontentment will drive your necessity for change. The same conditions apply not only personally but also professionally. It is a question of how we perceive and view the discontentment that makes the difference. Like you have stated, viewing discontentment in an optimistic manner is more productive. It requires a determined mindset however because our default setting is most always pessimistic.
#3: “Leverage current opportunities for service and scan the horizon for new.” And #8: “Pull the trigger when you’re 70% to 80% certain.” Two great suggestions among a great list of suggestions!!! In the first one, the key word for me is ‘service’ – not ‘me’. As for the other one, we need to remind ourself that ‘100% certain’ is impossible; AND toward the end, increasingly certain is a time and effort sink hole.
Great post as always…
Dan, There are so many nuggets in this post thank you for this. Here are just a few of my favorites.
“You can’t be antagonistic and exercise positive influence at the same time.”
“Build on small successes rather than criticizing because they could have been more.”
The balance between optimism and discontent is so important for leaders. No matter the business or activity, pushing forward is requires to even maintain success. What we have have done today and the successes we have enjoyed are passed. Leaders have to provide hope and vision to keep the team moving forward while enjoying the journey together.
“Explore potential problems optimistically. Step up. Don’t give up.”