Control The Life-Shaping Power Of Your Thoughts and Attitudes
THE SCIENTIFIC ARGUMENT FOR OPTIMISM
There’s a hot new field of research in the behavioral sciences. It’s called positive psychology, and it’s proving that attitude profoundly affects performance. Study after study spells out the benefits: Optimists get paid more, are healthier, win more elections, live longer, plus are better at dealing with uncertainty and change.
A lot of people have pretty much felt this at a gut level. What’s new is the confirming evidence from sophisticated research. It highlights the power of our thinking patterns, and shows the broad influence optimism has on personal effectiveness, happiness, and overall health.
Now we’ve got hard data. Science proves that optimism is a huge asset—for you as a person, or as a cultural trait that cuts across the whole organization.
OPTIMISM VS. PESSIMISM: THE PAYOFF
Why is optimism so valuable?
An attitude of positive expectancy energizes us and calls out our potential. It heightens our awareness of opportunity. Optimism points a powerful beam of light into the darker corners of our lives, revealing possibilities that are hiding in the shadows. The positiveminded person interprets events from the angle of hope, finding benefits and creative solutions the pessimist overlooks.
Compare that to the price tag that pessimism carries.
A negative frame of mind saps your energy, as well as the energy of people around you. It weakens your confidence. It hurts your creativity and problem-solving skills. You end up focusing on obstacles, and that interferes with your ability to spot opportunities. Finally, pessimism drains the joy out of life, leaving you emotionally spent and less effective in dealing with others.
BUILDING PSYCHOLOGICAL MUSCLE
The good news? Optimism can be learned. Practiced. We can develop it, much like any other skill.
First, let’s make a clear distinction between “hard optimism” and the old-time “power of positive thinking.” Research shows that the real muscle in hard optimism doesn’t come from merely repeating positive statements to ourselves. Instead, it comes when we change how we deal with our negative thoughts and feelings.
Let’s put it a different way: Positive thinking is important, but non-negative thinking is the essence of hard optimism. The secret is to manage the way we explain situations to ourselves—especially when we experience failure, difficulties, uncertainty, or loss, but also as we encounter opportunity and success.
Psychologists have discovered that optimism and pessimism are not two poles on a single scale. They’re two quite separate dimensions. And the best results seem to come when we consciously reshape our mental activity that’s pessimistic.
Hard optimism represents a disciplined, deliberate way of thinking about whatever life throws at us. It’s about focusing on blessings rather than bad things . . . emphasizing opportunities instead of obstacles . . . explaining events to ourselves in a way that enhances performance and improves our quality of life.
YOU'RE THE BOSS OF YOUR ATTITUDE
Nobody can do our thinking for us.
Optimism or pessimism—ultimately, it’s your choice. You get to decide how you want to frame events. You choose how you’ll interpret circumstances. Each of us is the engineer of our emotional life, the architect of our own happiness.
There’s a lot riding on this issue of attitude . . . design optimistically.
“What an interesting life I had. And how I wish I had realized it sooner.” —Collette