glass half-full

Is your glass half full?

I have a mug on my desk with a line drawn half way down and the statement, “now the glass is half empty.” What about you? Is your glass half empty or half full? Or are you a devoted realist, right down the middle?

Chances are, you know very well what direction you lean. And according to the experts, it makes a big difference in the quality of your life. In Western societies, optimists have an advantage over pessimists when it comes to such basic things as achievement, perseverance, happiness, and health. These are big ticket items!

According to Martin Seligman, father of the positive psychology movement, optimists explain positive events as having happened because of something they did, and negative events as flukes. Positive events confirm their belief in their ability to make good things happen, while negative events just roll off of their back.

Pessimists think the opposite way. Negative events confirm their belief that they don’t have what it takes to succeed and mistakes and failures are inevitable. Positive experiences are seen as just good luck. While it might not be easy, it is possible to learn optimism by changing your outlook on the events that happen to you.

If you are a pessimist, try the following exercises:

When something positive happens to you, examine your thinking.

  • What are all the ways you contributed to making that happen?
  • Focus on your strengths.
  • Think of other areas of your life and in your future that will be impacted by this positive event.

When negative events happen, examine what you tell yourself.

  • Think about all the extenuating circumstances that contributed to it.
  • Aim for a realistic self-appraisal.
  • Look at your shortcomings and try to improve them.
  • Treat your mistakes as learning experiences.

Remember, this is a lifelong habit. If you don’t see immediate changes, don’t give up! Be an optimist about your ability to change your pessimism!

CC Photo by Jenny Downing

2 Responses to Do You Have the Optimism Advantage?

  1. Dan Mans says:

    Oh to be blessed with the Optimism Advantage! I count myself among those who have it and know that life is different with the ‘Pessimist’s Curse.’ The Optimists benefits:
    • Whether it’s true or not, we live in the genuine belief that it’s all going to be ok. We get to live in this reality we create.
    • This becomes a fulfilling prophecy; we manifest what we believe. More often than not, things end up swimmingly!
    Cheers to the confidence and the security bestowed by optimism!

    What I have learned from the Pessimist:
    • Be careful with your optimism – it may set unrealistic expectations and lay the foundations of disappointment for non-optimist colleagues.
    • When an optimist expresses a measure of realism, he builds credibility and unity with those not endowed with the Optimist’s Advantage.

    • Linda Wagener says:

      Dan:

      Thanks so much for these words of wisdom. Indeed we do live and work in a world with both optimists and pessimists. You offer great advice and highlight the need to be sensitive to the differences in our compatriots. I particularly like your last comment and will keep it in mind myself!