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Learned Optimism

Have you ever wondered how some people just always seem to see the silver lining? Or focus on the positive and seem to just let the negative roll off their back?

You might think these people were just born that way or did someone teach them how to be so freaking optimistic?

Ok, real talk, does it freaking matter? No, what does matter is that remembering that you have a choice.

If you want to be successful, the easiest way is to start being more optimistic, look at the positives, or what good can come out of the situation. Not convinced?

Here are some reasons: more opportunities, friendlier encounters, genuine collaborations and so much more.

From the Positive Psychology website, it states Learned Optimism is the opposite of learned helplessness; learned optimism is a concept that says we can change our attitude and behaviors – by recognizing and challenging our negative self-talk, among other things. It’s also the title of his well-known book on the same, which delves into the theory a little further (see link below).

Learned helplessness is a phenomenon whereby individuals believe they are incapable of changing their circumstances after repeatedly experiencing a stressful event (Abramson et al., 1978; Seligman & Garber, 1980; Maier & Seligman, 2016).

Learned optimism was defined by Martin Seligman and published in his 1990 book, Learned Optimism.[1] The benefits of an optimistic outlook are many: Optimists are higher achievers and have better overall health. Pessimism, on the other hand, is much more common; pessimists are more likely to give up in the face of adversity or to suffer from depression. Seligman invites pessimists to learn to be optimists by thinking about their reactions to adversity in a new way. The resulting optimism—one that grew from pessimism—is a learned optimism. The optimist’s outlook on failure can thus be summarized as “What happened was an unlucky situation (not personal), and really just a setback (not permanent) for this one, of many, goals (not pervasive)”.

  • Permanence: Optimistic people believe bad events to be more temporary than permanent and bounce back quickly from failure, whereas others may take longer periods to recover or may never recover. They also believe good things happen for reasons that are permanent, rather than seeing the transient nature of positive events. Optimists point to specific temporary causes for negative events; pessimists point to permanent causes.
  • Pervasiveness: Optimistic people compartmentalize helplessness, whereas pessimistic people assume that failure in one area of life means failure in life as a whole. Optimistic people also allow good events to brighten every area of their lives rather than just the particular area in which the event occurred.
  • Personalization: Optimists blame bad events on causes outside of themselves, whereas pessimists blame themselves for events that occur. Optimists are therefore generally more confident. Optimists also quickly internalize positive events while pessimists externalize them.

Since it is true that we can learn to be an optimist or pessimistic then why do we then choose to be a pessimist?  That is simply because it is easier to stay the same than to change.  It is easier to blame others for how we feel versus accepting that we are allowing it to happen.   Giving our power to others, giving others the ability to control us.  Does this mean we do not have the power to take it back?  To take back the control and decide for ourselves?

No, of course not, ask any abused woman or child that has been able to transform their life into something completely different than when they were a victim.

So again, why do we continue to choose to see the world through this dark color lense?  Because it is easier to see the sadness and lament how awful everything is.  If it is so awful then why not act to be the change in the world?  Why push the blame on this anonymous world that does terrible things and does nothing for others while you do the same.

When you are not part of the change, you ARE part of the problem.

  • Make a list of actionable steps you can take
  • Choose one action to take each week (let’s start baby steps, once you are comfortable start taking daily steps.)
  • Make a list of affirmations to recite daily!
  • Set reminders, that are daily affirmations for you to say.
  • Set a gratitude reminder a few times a day.  Ask yourself “What am I grateful for at this moment?”  Ask others to add more to the fun.
  • Start by stop blaming others, or external sources
  • Be your own Super Woman, get in control of your choices and decisions

Learning to be optimistic is the first step to changing your life.  Without optimism, you cannot see opportunities.  Without options, you cannot feel like there is the possibility of more.  Start today, with simple affirmations to get you moving in the right direction.

Here are some books that talk about learning optimism.

  

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