“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” ― Oscar Wilde
The term “learned optimism” has been coined by Martin Seligman in the 1990 book by the same title. From the book, we learn that you can turn optimism into a habit. What is optimism? It’s when you explain most of what’s happening in your life in a positive way.
Each difficulty contains a seed of positive future development, and according to Seligman, maintaining this point of view is one of the keys to happiness. The author gives a lot of proof to validate his hypothesis.
One study concerned new students from the University of Pennsylvania. Firstly, they completed questionnaires about their feelings and emotions. The goal was to identify the most pessimistic students.
Secondly, half of these gloomy alumni were invited for a sixteen-hour workshop about optimism. The rest stayed in the control group. After eighteen months they came back to see the results and it turned out that:
In the control group, 32% of the students suffered from semi-advanced to advanced depression and 15% had anxiety disorders.
In the group that attended the workshop, 22% suffered from depression and 7% had anxiety disorders.
In my opinion, after just sixteen hours of training, that’s an impressive result (taking into account that the subjects were pessimistic in the first place). So optimism can be learned – at least to some degree.
Optimists Vs Pessimists
There are a few differences in the behavior between optimists and pessimists:
- Optimists claim that unfortunate experiences are short term, so they quickly recover from failure and loss. Conversely, pessimists believe that defeat is for the long term, so it’s hard for them to reset their life.
- Optimists know that failure is a single experience in a single area of life. Pessimists see failure as something that affects their whole life.
- Optimists think that failure and unfortunate events are caused by things out of their control. Pessimists blame mostly themselves for anything bad that happens. They take responsibility.
How to become happier and more optimistic
I recommend reading “Learned Optimism” but if for any reason you won’t, just remember the most important idea – always try to find something positive in everything that happens to you.
When something negative happens in your life, say “I’m responsible”. Don’t blame others. Take responsibility, and fix the situation. You’ll feel better.
Focus on the positive. There’s no reason for you to dwell on the negative events in your life. Just accept them as random happenings and move forward. Always forward, never backward.
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