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!
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