Both old school wisdom and modern day science say that optimism is one of the greatest indicators of how successful you’ll be.
BZZZZZZ… Shocking isn’t in?!
While we’re living on purpose, it’s important to adapt an optimistic mindset. I’m not looking to get you all horned up on the power of positive thinking, but if you’re gonna make a drastic change in your life, you have to believe that it’s possible. You have to be optimistic.
Listen, by no way am I promoting that you quit your job tomorrow to take a trip to Waikiki, and blow through your bank account, while thinking it’ll just all work out. That’s not what I’m saying. You’re gonna encounter challenges along the way – hard hurtles that hurt.
What I’m encouraging is courageous, strategic steps, while keeping your faith that things will ultimately work out. It’s not that optimistic thinking is gonna save your life, but in my eyes, it’s gonna make it a hell of a lot better.
Studies are showing that in the long run, having a positive outlook on life will make you happier, healthier, and wealthier while raising your quality of life. It’s key!
The way I see it, being optimistic means trusting that good will come of the situation. A lot of people wish they were more optimistic, but they’ll tell you that they just weren’t born that way. Well maybe they weren’t, but ultimately, science says that we have the ability to change the way that we think.
World renowned positive psychologist Martin Seligman says “Habits of thinking need not be forever. One of the most significant findings in psychology in the last twenty years is that individuals can choose the way they think.” (Check out his book Learned Optimism for more amazingness on the topic.)
That’s right! You read that correctly. Seligman is saying that you have the ability to choose how you think. We no longer need to be stuck in a death spiral of turbulently fatal autopilot thoughts. With time, and continuous diligent awareness, you can reprogram your mind to think more empowering thoughts.
You’re probably saying “How the hell am I supposed to do that!”
Allow my homegirl to answer…
Positive psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky says “All that is required to become an optimist is to have the goal and to practice it. The more you rehearse optimistic thoughts, the more ‘natural’ and ‘ingrained’ they will become. With time they will be part of you, and you will have made yourself into an altogether different person.” (Check out her book The How of Happiness for more magnificence on that topic.)
Know this: If you continually practicing being optimistic, you’ll develop and condition your “optimism muscle” to automatically respond positively. You’re not gonna be the Arnold Swarchenegger of pumping optimism on week one. But keep hitting the “optimism gym” and before you know it, your natural tendency will be to react optimistically.
Seligman also conducted studies on “Learned Helplessness.”
This is really cool. Like 40 degrees below zero weather, with only one layer on, cool. Like a meat freezer in Greenland, cool.
Ok. Word on the street is here’s how it went down.
Seligman took two dogs and put them into two different cages. Let’s call dog number one Spot and dog number two Lassie. Seligman then administered a small shock to the cages (in an extremely humane way from what I understand.)
BZZZZZZZ. Both Spot and Lassie are simultaneously being shocked.
Spot quickly finds the “stop-lever” and is able to disable the shocks. Lassie on the other hand is unable to find the “stop-lever” to disable the shocks. That’s because there is no “stop-lever” for Lassie. Her shocks are actually disabled only when Spot hits his “stop-lever.” So to Lassie, everything seems random because she’s got no control. Lassie learns that she’s helpless in this situation.
Now for part two. Seligman takes Spot and Lassie to a new area with a new set of circumstances. Now they both have the ability to disable the shocks. BZZZZZZZ. This time, Spot quickly learns how to escape the shocks. Unfortunately for Lassie, she’s conditioned to think that there’s nothing she can do to stop the shocks, even though there is! She curls up on the floor and gives up. She’s essentially “learned helplessness.”
Seligman says that this principle of “learned helplessness” is evident in human behavior also. We’re conditioned to think that we’re unable to escape pain, change our lives, and advance. The solution to this suffering all start out in our minds. Instead of “learned helplessness,” we’ve gotta practice…
That’s why it so important to be optimistic. Don’t let your past failure predict your future success. Don’t let a few disappointing deferred dreams stop you from traveling a purposeful path. Shit happens. Don’t let it sit in the bowl forever. Flush it down, get rid of it, and clear the air for a fresh optimistic start at something new.
Seligman suggests it’s all about your “explanatory style.” Your explanatory style is the way which you explain events to yourself in your head. It all comes down to the three Ps.
- Permanence – this will last forever, it’s permanent.
- Pervasiveness – this will affect my whole life, it’s pervasive.
- Personalization – this is because of me, it’s personal.
When something good happens, the optimist responds like this:
- It’s gonna last for a long time. (Permanence)
- It’s gonna spread throughout my life. (Pervasiveness)
- It’s because I was able to make it happen. (Personal)
When shit hits the fan (scientific term), the optimist responds like this:
- It’s not gonna last forever. (Permanence)
- It’ll only affect this area of my life. (Pervasiveness)
- This doesn’t mean I’m a moron. (Personal)
The pessimist responds pretty much exactly the opposite as the optimist to all the same situations above.
Remember: we’re gonna train ourselves to react to situations more optimistically. That takes time, but stay with it. We know it’s possible and we know it’s worth it!
*This article was originally written for Living On Purpose but was taken out before the final release. If you dig this, you’ll *superdig* Living On Purpose!