In this Illuminate series, we’ll be exploring each of the learnable competencies of the Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Model. This is week five: Exercise Optimism

You are the only one who knows what you need.
You are the only one responsible for asking for it.
You are the one and unique and only person in this world positioned to best help yourself.

How will you use that advantage? Practice your skill of exercising optimism.


Illuminate: Strengthen the Muscles of Your Optimism

In India, when a baby elephant is captured, its legs are tied to a post with a rope. It struggles, cries, and tries to break free, but it eventually stops, because it learns that the venture is hopeless. As the elephant gets older, it is kept tied to the same post, with the same rope, despite its much larger size. Even though it is now strong enough to easily break free from its confinement, it doesn’t. Why? Because it thinks it can’t. Because it’s forgotten it’s an option. Because it’s forgotten that breaking free is what it wanted to do.

This is learned helplessness. We all occasionally (or not so occasionally) live in this same psychological space as the elephant. We tell ourselves, “I can’t…” or “I’ll never…” or “I don’t deserve….” or we forget that we actually have more options than we perceive. We stop trying, we give up, and our muscles of self-determination and freedom wither.

Learned Optimism is how we get those muscles back in shape. It’s how we go about the business of helping ourselves.

To exercise the muscle of learned optimism, we’ll use the TIE technique. First, identify a situation you’re currently experiencing where you might be practicing some learned helplessness… you might be feeling stuck or frustrated or you might feel like there are no real options for you.

Now, re-affirm these three things for yourself about the situation:

T: Temporary. This situation will pass. Can you imagine how your life will look and how you will feel when it does?
I: Isolated. This is an isolated event that is only one part of your life. What other part of your life is going relatively well?
E: Effort. With effort, you can change parts of this situation. What of this situation is in your control? What are some options for helping yourself?

You can do the TIE technique with any situation. It’s a simple and quick way to practice building your muscles of learned optimism, and the benefits of doing this are myriad.


How do you feel after flexing the muscles of learned optimism? What insight can you harness from this feeling?

How could you use TIE in your everyday life, when facing a challenging, seemingly helpless situation?

Illuminate is a weekly e-mail series that provides practical tips + galvanizing inspirations for practicing an emotionally intelligent life. In our time together, we’ll operate from the assumption that you have all the wisdom you need inside of yourself + that you have a purpose the world needs to see. We will explore the tools + techniques to illuminate your own inner wisdom and purpose. If you’d like to receive this free gift of goodness in your inbox every week, subscribe here.

Michael Miller

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