Should your nickname be Pollyanna or Eeyore?
Even if you’ve never read Eleanor Porter’s most famous book, Pollyanna, you probably know that the main character’s name has become synonymous with a sunny, almost relentlessly cheerful outlook on life.
Similarly, if you’ve ever seen any books or movies about A.A. Milne’s character Winnie-the-Pooh, you’ve also met his pal Eeyore, who gives a new depth of meaning to the phrase “doom-and-gloom pessimism”.
While you’ve probably encountered people who naturally seem to look on either the bright or the gloomy side of life, I don’t think optimists and pessimists are necessarily born; I think they’re often (self-)made. You can consciously choose to look for the positive aspects of whatever situation comes your way, and this conscious viewpoint can then become a habitual way of viewing the world.
Is this perspective easy to develop? Not particularly. Is it worth the effort? Absolutely.
What makes optimism an effective and empowering default option for creating the business and life you want? Various studies have suggested that, compared to pessimists, optimists enjoy:
- better physical health
- greater ability to bounce back from disappointments or setbacks
- more courage when it comes to trying new things or taking calculated risks
- greater persistence and more success in achieving goals they’ve set for themselves
- higher self-esteem
Optimism and pessimism: personality traits or habits of thought?
Sounds pretty good, right? But can you actually learn to be optimistic? Psychologist Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D., contends you can. In fact, he believes this so strongly that he wrote a classic book on the topic, called (Surprise!) Learned Optimism. Here’s a summary of his recommendations on how to develop a habit of optimistic thinking; he calls it “the ABCDE model.”
You encounter some challenge/obstacle/setback/disappointment. You immediately and unconsciously explain this event based on your….
Seligman describes beliefs as being “pervasive, personal, and permanent.” The difference between optimists and pessimists is what they consider to be pervasive, personal, and permanent.
The pessimist believes one disappointing experience means all experiences will be disappointing; that the disappointing results are the result of internal factors (character flaws) rather than external ones; and that disappointment is an inevitable and ongoing state of affairs.
The optimist, on the other hand, believes that one gratifying experience means all experiences will be gratifying; that the gratifying results are the result of internal factors (character strengths) rather than external ones; and that gratification is a permanent state of affairs.
Whatever beliefs you hold, they in turn create…
Your beliefs will cause you to experience certain emotions. Those emotions will be positive or negative, depending on the beliefs which led to them. A pessimist tends to be drowned in negative emotional consequences, while an optimist is more likely to bask in positive ones. When habitual pessimistic thoughts circle endlessly in your mind, there’s no real relief from beating up on yourself; when habitual optimistic thoughts do the circling, your default mood is positive.
If you experience more negative emotional consequences than you like, you can promptly move on to the next step:
This is where you begin to consciously use the power of your thoughts to challenge your negative beliefs, so you start to experience positive consequences rather than negative ones. Essentially, you go on the attack and challenge the truth of your negative beliefs. When you get good at doing this, you’ll be able to bask in the final stage:
Okay, I’m not sure that’s really a word, but the concept is terrific: By successfully disputing your negative beliefs, you re-claim your energy and personal power, and you begin to shift from being a habitual pessimist to a habitual optimist.
Naturally, there’s a lot more to the ABCDE model than this, and I really encourage you to work through Seligman’s book if any of this resonates with you.
And, believe me: I know I’ve just suggested adding one more thing to what may already feel like an overwhelming To Do list. If that’s the case, maybe I can help you develop a clearer vision of what activities will give you the best and quickest ROI.
To see if that’s a possibility, we could arrange a 30- to 40-minute phone call to get acquainted and see if we’d be a good fit for each other. Whether we discover the answer is “good fit”, “not a fit”, or “you’ve got to be kidding”, we’ll both feel comfortable with it.
If that sounds intriguing, just call me at 319-270-1214 or email me with “Should I feel optimistic about this?” in the subject line. We’ll see what shakes out.
(Thanks to Eleanor Porter’s hometown of Littleon, NH, for posting the Pollyanna image on their website, www.golittleton.com. Thanks also to JD Hancock for posting his “ultimate Eeyore” image in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)This entry was posted in mindset, success factors and tagged effectiveness, habits. Bookmark the permalink.
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