Life can be difficult and it is easy to let it get us down. It can be hard to stay optimistic when we are faced with change that we perceive as negative or out of our control. Each of us may define optimism a bit differently. You may be optimistic in one context, yet pessimistic in another. Some researchers define optimism as a global expectation of a positive future. Some experts describe optimism as the way we explain outcomes. When faced with a negative event, a pessimist will view it as internal, permanent and universal (i.e., “This always happens to me; it’s my fault”). In contrast, an optimist attributes the event to something external, transient and specific (i.e., “This isn’t my fault; it’s a temporary glitch”). Which one are you? If you want to become more optimistic then read on.
Your Best Possible Selves
Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky offers the following exercise, called “Your Best Possible Selves,” in The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want.
For 20 minutes, write a description of your best possible future selves in multiple life domains.
Channelling your thoughts in this direction will boost your mood and motivation. The exercise prompts you to organise, integrate and analyse your thoughts in ways that fantasising doesn’t allow. Writing about your dreams provides clarity and a renewed sense of control.
You must regularly engage in this activity to develop optimistic thinking habits. As with sports and career mastery, optimism requires practice and persistence.
Being optimistic involves a choice about how you see the world. It doesn’t mean denying the negative or avoiding unfavourable information.
Pragmatic optimists also keenly aware that positive outcomes depend on the wholeheartedness of their efforts. They don’t wait around for good things to happen.
If you’re struggling with dissatisfaction, pessimism or an inability to feel grateful, consider working with a professional coach. In the work I do with clients, I’ve seen how coaching can open the doors to happiness and success.
You owe it to yourself; as they say on TV: You’re worth it!