Here’s a quote from Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s, that illustrates this quality of optimism:
I was 52 years old. I had diabetes and incipient arthritis. I had lost my gall bladder and most of my thyroid gland in earlier campaigns, but I was convinced that the best was ahead of me.
The Flip Side of Optimism: Learned Helplessness
Dr. Martin Seligman and other cognitive psychologists have studied the anatomy of pessimism and its role in depression. Not only does pessimism lead to depression, but it also means a person is more likely to give up in the face of adversity.
Cognitive psychologists have learned that depressed and pessimistic people have predictable patterns of thinking:
- They explain negative events that happen as permanent. “These events will never change”
- They see negative events as being personal. “It’s my fault that these events happened.”
- They explain negative events as being pervasive. “These events happen in every area of my life. I can’t do anything correctly.”
You may never realize how critical your self-talk and explanatory style is, but it’s a key factor to your personal development, your personal leadership, and your personal success! If you continue to explain negative events as described above, you become captive to a victim mentality, believing that you have no control or competence over bad things that happen in your life.
Conversely, you will have a very difficult time believing that positive events have anything to do with you! A person who is captive to learned helplessness is lik Eeyore, the pessimistic donkey from Winnie-the-Poo: Nothing is ever good, even when the sun is shining and everything is going well in the world.
You Have a Choice!
One of the most simple, yet profound facts about cognitive theory is that you can learn optimism!
And optimism has its benefits:
a) You will feel better emotionally.
b) When you feel better emotionally, you will tend to handle stress more effectively. Due to the mind-body connection, if you are feeling less stress, you will be more healthy.
Here are Some Optimism Tips
It’s hard to change what you are not aware of. It’s taken a lifetime to get yourself into a habit of pessimistic thinking, if that’s what you struggle with. However, you can turn this around in 21 days! Write down your self-talk for the next three weeks, and you’ll start developing a way to catch your negative thought patterns before they catch you!
Cognitive therapists recommend that you write your negative thoughts on a thought record.
Here’s a worksheet you can use to record your automatic thinking about different events that occur on a day-to-day basis. Become aware of your thoughts and feelings by writing them down!
Practice the Characteristics of Optimistic Thinking
Count your blessings. Once you realize how valuable you are and how much you have going for you, the smiles will return, the sun will break out, the music will play, and you will finally be able to move forward the life that God intended for you with grace, strength, courage, and confidence.
Positive Permanence: Temporary Adversity:
Optimists view failure and bad events as temporary. So the next time a bad event or a failure occurs, watch what you say to yourself. Choose to see it as temporary. “This, too, shall pass,” is a great adage from recovery circles. Apply it to your situations!
On the other hand, choose to see positive events as permanent, and not believing that happiness and good things only come around once in a while. One of the ways that you can anchor your subconscious to good things as permanent is the practice of regular gratitude.
Instead of explaining negative things as those things which occur in every area of your life, compartmentalize them. This is what optimists do! In other words, they are honest about negative events, but they don’t let those events color every aspect their lives.
The alternative to generalizing negativity as pervading your whole life is to let positive experiences expand to fill every part of your life. Again, the practice of gratitude will help you notice everything that’s good in your life. This will, in turn, lead to a more optimistic mindset.
When negative events occur, make sure that you attribute temporary causes to those events.
When positive events occur, look for permanent causes to those events.
For example, you may receive a promotion by applying some of the success principles you read about in this blog, or in other books. If you are a default pessimist (who is changing into an optimist :), you will tend to discount your promotion, or try to explain it away.
By contrast, an optimist will explain the promotion as due to positive success factors and characteristics that s/he has practiced and will continue to practice. Thus, s/he expects that good things will come her/his way in the future.
If we are used to feeling like we are victims of circumstance or learned helplessness, we blame ourselves for everything that goes wrong. We don’t feel as though we have the abilities or talents to make good things happen in our life.
Practice the opposite! When bad things happen, acknowledge the mistakes you made, but don’t magnify them.
To get in the habit of noticing your good qualities, make a daily mental or written victory list each evening before bed. What did you do well? What are you proud of? What are you glad that you accomplished?
You can also take some time to write or visualize ideal scenarios of who you are becoming, or what you will be accomplishing.
Think about who you would like to become, in terms of character, one year from now.
My mission on this blog is to help you grow in your personal development and personal leadership. Apply the optimism tips from this post. Think about what accomplishments you will be reflecting on one year from now: visualize them, and feel the pride!
photo credit: Barbara Cannnela
I hope you’ll make use of these optimism tips to live your best life! Please share your comments below 🙂
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