It can be learned. I cringe when I hear others talk about one being a pessimist and one be an optimist. As if they’re preordained to be one or the other, and that’s the way it is. Positioned that if you are one or the other, you can never be both or switch between the two. I’m an optimist. To a fault. But, I’ve also got a pessimist that sits on my shoulder too. It’s choice. Which means it can be learned. I choose optimistic approaches hands down, as much as I can. Here’s how.
It starts with our internal voice. I’ve had my share of negative events in my life. At one point, that’s all that seemed to happen to me. I learned it was because my internal conversations where mostly all negative. As a pessimist I considered things to be permanent. “I always lose races because I’m just not a racer.” Using the word “always” makes our explanations permanent. The optimist in me would say, “I lost this race and learned I need to train harder on my splits.” Very specific and very temporary versus very general. So, start with trying to find why you’re thinking the way you are. Self-talk can be learned.
Being negative and positive has impacts on our health. Optimist are generally healthier. I’ve spent several posts where I’ve shared how powerful our brains are. We think, and yes therefore we are. We think we’re worthless, in comes depression to say we are. We think we’re capable of great things, in comes the boost to our immune system to be more resilient. Studies have concluded that changing the way we talk to ourselves can even enhance the immune system better than any kind of drug we can take. Actions can have a positive effect or a negative effect.
The way we talk to ourselves also plays a huge part in our performance. It’s been seen and proven in sports. Given two teams that are completely equals in every aspect, the team that has the most optimism is the one that will outperform the team that didn’t have enough. The powerful influence of optimism on our performance cannot be denied. Talent is completely overrated when it’s not coupled with optimism.
But, how do we change our explanatory style? How do we have better optimistic conversations with ourselves? Especially, how can we do this when we may be stuck in pessimistic explanatory behaviors? Albert Ellis a well known psychologist developed a technique to help use start, which he called the ABC technique: adversity, belief, and consequence. Putting your thinking through these three filters creates enough of a pause for you to improve self-awareness just enough to change. Here’s one of my examples through the ABC.
Adversity: I’m not getting the team to buy into my strategies for work.
Belief: I’m not getting any feedback because they don’t like me. They think I’m a bad leader.
Consequence: I second guess whether I even belong or not in the work I am doing. I’m depressed all day.
Trying to listen to my own self-talk literally will give me the power back over my choices and help me to think differently. Recording ourselves too can be a big help as we apply ABC. Think of adversity as any challenge you’ve been faced with. Belief is how you translate that challenge or interpret situations as they happen to you. Consequences is the behavior you exhibited as the result of dealing with adversity and belief. Simple. Once you have a few of these mapped out, you can begin to see. When you can see, you can be in a position to change. You can be in control of your outcomes.
I’ve learned just getting really good with understanding what my beliefs are, they have a huge impact on consequences. So, if I can change they way I believe about something that’s a big hurdle in moving into a more positive mindset that I just overcame. Some simple ways to dig deep in your beliefs and understand if they’re real or need to be changed can be found in four simple questions:
Is this belief actually true?
Is there an alternate explanation?
What are the implications of your belief, if it were true?
And, is what I am thinking even useful to me?
Optimism is healthier than pessimism, both mentally an physically. For me as I’ve learned more and more in this area its become something I lean into a lot for finding success faster. I’m completely happier more often, even in failures. I’ve learned that optimism and pessimism are completely learned responses. Which means you and I can change how we respond, we are in control. It is possible then, to be more optimistic in our work/life than we realize!
Hope the weekend has treated you well. Thanks for stopping by.