Here's why it's worth trying:
And here's how you actually do it:Scientific research has come up with a long list of benefits to being optimistic. Here are just a few:
- Optimism is associated with better health and a longer life.
- Research has shown that practicing optimism and gratitude causes (not just correlates with) an increase in happiness.
- The army teaches soldiers to be optimistic because it makes them tougher and more persistent.
- Being socially optimistic — expecting people to like you — makes people like you more.
- Expecting a positive outcome from negotiations made groups more likely to come to a deal and to be happy with it.
- Optimists are luckier. Research shows by thinking positive they persevere and create more opportunities for themselves.
- Optimistic salespeople are more successful.
Et voila, a small step towards a more optimistic world for us all.
The 3 P’sIt all comes down to what researchers call “explanatory style.” When bad things happen, what kind of story do you tell yourself?There are three important elements here. Let’s call them the 3 P’s: permanence, pervasiveness and whether it’s personal.
Pessimists tell themselves that bad events:
- Will last a long time, or forever. (“I’ll never get this done.”)
- Are universal. (“You can’t trust any of those people.”)
- Are their own fault. (“I’m terrible at this.”)Optimists, well, they see it the exact opposite:
- Bad things are temporary. (“That happens occasionally but it’s no big deal.”)
- Bad things have a specific cause and aren’t universal. (“When the weatheris better that won’t be a problem.”)
- It’s not their fault. (“I’m good at this but today wasn’t my lucky day.”)Seligman explains:The defining characteristic of pessimists is that they tend to believe bad events will last a long time, will undermine everything they do, and are their own fault. The optimists, who are confronted with the same hard knocks of this world, think about misfortune in the opposite way. They tend to believe defeat is just a temporary setback, that its causes are confined to this one case. The optimists believe defeat is not their fault: Circumstances, bad luck, or other people brought it about. Such people are unfazed by defeat. Confronted by a bad situation, they perceive it as a challenge and try harder.And when good things happen, the situation reverses:
- Pessimists think good things will be short-lived, are rare and random.
- Optimists think good things will last forever, are universal and of their own doing.What’s the ultimate result of this? Pessimists often quit. Life feels futile. And when life feels futile, you stop trying and frequently get depressed.So now we understand the kind of thinking that underlies these positions… but how do you go from one to the other?Research shows you should act like a crazy person… Okay, I’ll be more specific.
Argue With YourselfHow do you train a puppy not to poop on the carpet? It helps to catch him in the act.When things don’t go your way, that voice in your head is going to tell a story. Check which explanatory style it’s using.Is it saying bad things are going to be permanent and universal? Are you blaming yourself? That’s pessimism.Watch your thinking and flip the script on the three:
- Change permanent explanations to more fleeting ones.
- Change pervasive responses to specific ones.
- Change personal reasoning to not-all-my-fault perspectives.This doesn’t have to mean lying to yourself.Do you really “always screw this up”? That’s probably not accurate. Was it100% your fault? Almost everything has multiple causes.By remembering the 3 P’s and flipping the script, research shows you can make yourself more optimistic over time.