Back in the 17 August blog entry I focused on Optimism and how when bad things happen, you can turn a Pessimistic response into an Optimistic response. This is done by changing your thinking about the bad event from the 3 P’s (Pervasive, Personal, and Permanent) into a SIT (Specific, Impersonal, and Temporary) response. (Credit to Martin Seligman.) What about when a good thing happens?
This post is part 4 in my series Confidence is an OUTCOME gained through H.O.P.E. (Happiness, Optimism, Purpose, and Energy)
When good things happen to us, it is equally important to maintain a healthy manner of thinking about these events. And it is quite easy to do now you are already alert to the 3 P’s and the SIT response.
While Pessimists in response to a BAD event blame themselves (make it Personal) and expect misfortune to become a Pervasive and Permanent state, Optimists in response to a GOOD event credit themselves (make it Personal) and
expect good events to become Pervasive and Permanent. Got a nice bonus at the end of the year? The Optimist credits himself for being talented and well-regarded. He thinks in terms of Permanent causes, and expects good things to continue to come his way. The Pessimist by contrast might describe a nice bonus as a matter of luck, mood, or effort, and thinks in terms of sometimes, or one-offs. The Pessimist might credit the good mood of the boss for issuing the bonus, or a quarterly leap in profits, or all the extra hours that the Pessimist clocked in over the year.
This is the piece I find most difficult about building our Optimism–that it is not by our effort and work ethic that good things come to us, but rather by the sheer impact of who we are. This goes against the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the British faith in education and hard work! What about those of us who are firm believers in efficacy and have an internal locus of control (i.e., we are masters of our own destiny, rather than powerless against external forces)? Are we to think that Optimism will elude us because we also believe in effort and work hard?
Well, no, not really. It is when we believe that the only way that good things will come to us is through effort and a bit of luck that we seal our fate to pessimism, and all its negative thoughts and feelings. Have you ever pushed yourself really hard to achieve a goal to the exclusion of all else? Sometimes there is reward in this, but also there is often an opportunity cost. Perhaps you became synonymous with the project of your focus and thereby were passed over for the chance to work on something else that interested you. Or perhaps in your year-long effort to get that work out the door, you missed the opportunity to be with someone you love, or might fall in love with, had you given yourself the chance.
Optimistic people see more opportunities. They greet the world with open eyes and an open heart, mindful of what possibilities could be in the future, and happy in the present. Optimism is about self-belief. So the next time something good happens, give yourself a pat on the back for being talented (make it Personal), think of how this will positively affect other outcomes (see it as Pervasive), and recognise that more good things are on the way (it is Permanent). And let the resulting buoyancy you will feel carry you to the next good thing.