How optimistic are you?
As valuable as optimism is during transitions and beyond, it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. People often think they are more optimistic than they actually are. Consider the comments below. How many of them sound like something you’d say? If optimism doesn’t come naturally to you, it is worth cultivating to prevent feelings of helplessness, provide a buffer against illness, and to improve problem solving.
- Schools are closed due to a snowstorm. It’s a great chance to catch up on some chores at home.
- When the phone rings, I expect good news.
- That presentation didn’t go well, but I learned a critical lesson that will help me nail the next one.
- A reorganization means I’ll be out of a job in three months. That gives me an opportunity to regroup and decide what I want to do next.
- I didn’t get the job I wanted, but I know I’ll find one if I keep looking.
- I get asked to lead projects because I’m a good leader.
- There’s always another way.
- I’m having a bad day, but tomorrow will be better.
- There is a way out of this; we just have to find it.
- There is a lesson in every failure if you look for it.
- I got the promotion because I’m good at my job.
- When I smile and wave at someone and they don’t respond in kind, I assume they are having a bad day not that they are upset with me.
- When I receive constructive criticism, I try to find a way to apply it.
- Traffic is particularly bad today. That gives me the opportunity to mentally prepare for my day (or to listen to my favorite podcast).
- I’m going to make this next chapter of my life the best one yet.
The more comments that resonated with you, the more likely you are to have an optimistic response to situations. It’s not the situation, but the response to the situation that indicates optimism or pessimism. Optimistic people view situations through the following four filters:
Optimists view negative events as temporary while pessimists believe, often in spite of evidence to the contrary, that they are permanent. For example, an optimistic response to an angry boss would be “My boss is disappointed in my performance on this project.” Rather than a pessimistic response of, “My boss hates me”. Optimists expect that with training, practice, etc. skills will develop while pessimists are more likely to say, “I’ll never be good at this.”
Optimists generalize positive experiences and isolate the impact of negative ones. For example, an optimistic response to a missed sale would be to isolate the negative event by thinking “This one didn’t go well.” while a pessimistic response would be to generalize the negative by thinking, “These big opportunities never work out for me.” The opposite is true for positive events. An optimist could take a positive interaction in the morning and generalize it to, “This is a great day” while the pessimist would have a tendency to isolate the positive event and consider it temporary.
Optimists have a pattern of attributing positive events in their lives to an internal source and negative events to an external source. For example, an optimist who failed to meet a deadline for a project might say, “Things were unusually busy, and I misjudged how much I could do in this short period of time.” On the other hand, an optimistic response to meeting a deadline would be, “I have great time management skills.”
Optimists have a general belief that good things will happen and that their actions will lead to positive outcomes even when they are in the middle of a bad situation or period of time. They always have hope.
Optimism can be cultivated. If you’d like to begin to learn how to respond to events in your life, review our post on cultivating optimism.