Posted by: joannabrandi | April 22, 2008

The Power of Optimism

Pessimism has its place. It helps us deal with reality and helps us plan for contingencies. Pessimism has been so important to the survival of our species that it’s “hardwired” into our brains. That’s the rub. It’s hard NOT to be pessimistic sometimes.

Marty Seligman, Ph.D. The author of “Authentic Happiness,” “Learned Optimism” and 20 or so other books and one of the most prominent leaders in the Positive Psychology field. (It’s Marty’s course in Authentic Happiness Coaching that I graduated from a few years ago) feels that optimism is critical for business success today.

The Foresight Institute, a human resources consulting firm New Zealand which has been applying his techniques for almost 15 years, agrees. According to the institute’s director, Jamie Ford, more than 1000 studies using Seligman’s methodology prove beyond doubt the link between optimism and superior performance in many aspects of life, including academic achievement, sales productivity, resilience to adversity, the strength of the immune system and even cancer survival rates.

That’s important to note at times like this when the pessimists are shouting from the rooftops. Both optimism and pessimism are ways of thinking, frames of mind about situations. Pessimists focus on the negative and see those conditions as permanent and pervasive. Optimists see them as temporary and specific.

Optimists look for what is right and good in a situation and focus their attention on that. We get more of what we focus on so it’s important to notice where our thinking is.

As you go through your day today, watch your thoughts. Are they influenced by watching the news? Are you dwelling on the things that are wrong? Could you have more control of what you put your focus on?

Here’s an exercise that Marty’s clients and Happiness Coaches do. At the end of the day write down three good things that happened that day and why. Do it everyday and your happiness will go up over time. Do it right before you go to bed so you are going to sleep on a positive note and you will sleep better too.

While things out there are tough you’ve got to take control of the media that plays in your mind. Are you listening to the good news network – or the bad news network in your head?

With determination and practice you can become an optimist. The payoff – they live about nine years longer than pessimists. (oh yeah, they tend to make more money and have more friends too.)



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