Ways you can learn to be optimistic

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“When life is sweet, say THANK YOU and CELEBRATE. And when life is bitter, say THANK YOU and GROW.”

My husband’s last day from his job was Friday and it has been a wave of emotion through many lenses. I have heard story after story and phone call after phone call of the emotional ride many of my husbands associates are going through. He just got of the phone with some one who is getting hit with the anger ball!! He is mad at everyone, the situation, the company that did not hire him, that he may have to move to feed his family, that he won’t make as much money…I loved hearing my husband chime in “I think this could work out to be an even better situation for all of us.”

Yes, OPTIMISM!!

If we can focus on not becoming the victim in any life challenge or change, we will come out better for it. If we can keep our heads from falling down in defeating thoughts and rise above the negative, we will be able to truly see what is ahead.  If we can continue to move forward daily and not get stuck in the mire of self doubt, then the road will be clear, clarity will be seen, the direction will be one of focus.

Life truly does throw us a challenge to help us grow, to help us move, to help us reach higher. It is like the metaphor of a spring flower reaching up through the layers of hard soil, reaching to break through the tough dirt to feel the warmth of the sun, to grow stronger, to feel the light of day and begin to feel of its purpose, to then bloom and grow again.

If we can change our perspective and look at change and challenge as a tool for growth, to learn to see the optimistic side, then each day will have purpose, each moment will challenge our thoughts, our direction will unchanged.

Can we learn to be optimistic in times of challenge?? Here is a great article that shows some great examples..

I can ‘learn’ Optimism     From Dr. Martin Seligman

Yep, according to psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman, you sure can…and if you believe the

research, you probably should!

We all know that optimists see the glass as half-full while pessimists see it as half-empty. But, that doesn’t come close to doing justice to the importance of optimism and how it affects our lives.

Martin Seligman, one of the leading psychologists in the world, has spent the last three and a half decades researching the influence of optimism on our lives. Much of his work is presented in his book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life.

Met Life

What does Met Life have to do with optimism? Quite a bit. Met Life was one of the first organizations to work with Seligman to apply his theories to the working world. And the company did so with great success.

Met Life (and all insurance companies, and many businesses for that matter) pay a lot of money to screen their candidates. Seligman believes that optimism is an important variable to look out for, and that this characteristic ties directly to the bottom line.

We’ll begin with traditional hiring wisdom which “holds that there are two ingredients of success…the first is ability or aptitude, and IQ tests and SAT are supposed to measure it. The second is desire or motivation. No matter how much aptitude you have, says traditional wisdom, if you

lack desire you will fail. Enough desire can make up for meager talent.”

Seligman continues, “I believe that traditional wisdom is incomplete. A composer can have all the talent of Mozart and a passionate desire to succeed, but if he believes he cannot compose music, he will come to nothing. He will not try hard enough. He will give up too soon when the elusive right melody takes too long to materialize.

Success requires persistence, the ability to not give up in the face of failure. I believe that optimistic explanatory style is the key to persistence.”

“The explanatory-style theory of success says that in order to choose people for success in a challenging job, you need to select for three characteristics:

1. aptitude   2. motivation   3. optimism”

Seligman took this theory to Met Life and tested it out. What did he find?

In short, he found that insurance agents who scored in the less optimistic half of his test were twice as likely to quit as agents who scored in the more optimistic half. Further, The agents from the top quarter sold 50% more than the agents from the bottom quarter.

Matt Biondi

Do you remember Matt Biondi? He was the greatest swimmer of his era and one of the most victorious Olympians of all time. He also happened to be a subject in one of Seligman’s research studies–an incredibly optimistic subject, in fact.

During the 1998 Seoul Olympics, Biondi was expected to bring home gold in all seven of his events. His first two events were a disappointment–he received bronze and silver.

Seligman tells a story about how he was watching the events at home, listening to the announcers ponder whether Biondi would rebound well following his two disappointments. Seligman says, “I sat in my living room confident he would.”

Why? “Because his explanatory style was highly optimistic and he had shown us that he got faster–not slower–after defeat.”

How’d he do? In the last five events in Seoul, Biondi won five gold medals.

The NBA

Seligman took his theories to the sports arena and found some fascinating results.

His question: Could a sports team be optimistic or pessimistic? How would this affect its performance?

His study: He focused on the Atlantic Division of the NBA. Holding other variables constant, his research team scientifically analyzed quotes from players and coaches to measure their level of optimism or pessimism following either a win or a loss.

His findings: Teams, and not just individuals, have a meaningful and measurable explanatory style. Following a loss, an optimistic team was much more likely to beat the spread. A team’s explanatory style for bad events strongly predicts how they do against a point spread after a loss in the next season.

In his study, the Celtics were the quintessential optimists–always explaining away a bad loss as temporary, specific, and not their fault. They were an uncanny comeback team. Language they used: “They were making good, quick cuts to the basket.” And,

“That’s the best I’ve ever seen a team run.”

The Nets, on the other hand, were mentally shipwrecked. They explained losses as permanent, pervasive, and their own fault: “We botched up things ourselves and blew all our opportunities.” And, “This is one of the physically weakest teams I’ve ever coached.”

-Seligman article taken from thinkarete

Optimists, in other words, know how to bounce back. Martin Seligman, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, explains it this way: “If a setback is thought about as temporary, changeable, and local, that’s optimism. If it’s thought about as permanent, unchangeable, and pervasive, that’s pessimism.” Victories are just the reverse: Optimists think of them as permanent and far-reaching; pessimists think of them as fleeting and situation-specific. For instance, if an optimist encounters a recipe she can’t make work, she’s likely to perceive the failure as external and temporary (“I’m just having an off day”), while the pessimist makes it internal and indelible (“I’ll never learn to cook”). As Seligman explains, optimism serves as a crucial framework for relating to experiences. “It’s the skeleton of hope,” he says.

-this quote from Oprah article http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Optimism#ixzz2NFi0OwlJ

Become More Optimistic

How do I become more optimistic?

Seligman’s advice: monitor your internal dialogue! As you know, we’re constantly talking to ourselves. The next time you find yourself anxious or worried, pause for a moment and pay attention to what you’re saying to yourself.

Internal dialogue is a big one—what dog are you feeding?  We have a great indian metaphor that we share in our family…imagine two dogs in your head. Imagine one with loving eyes and the other with a mean stare. Which dog will you want to feed? the one that may bite your hand off? We look at positive and negative self talk the same way. Do you want to listen to the good or bad?? Which beast do you want to feed?

We tend to have automatic responses to different situations. We need to develop awareness of those automatic responses, and then develop new, more effective ways to interpret life’s events.

Look at the positives in your life—there are many. Get grateful. From gratitude many gifts will unfold.

Look at the strengths you possess: Are you giving yourself any credit for the contributions you make to the world, to your family, your friends, your work?? My husband through this whole work change has received many letters of thanks and appreciation. I told him to make sure he keeps those words of praise and he tried to shrug it off.

Look at things on a brighter side…have an optimistic outlook no matter what. You can literally change your brain to trick it into thinking things are better. Facial expressions and the way you explain something will make a difference.

The grass doesn’t have to be greener…no matter what your situation, there is always someone else who is worse off than you. When you begin to compare yourself to your neighbor who has a bigger house, who has a great paying job, a cuter dog….just remember to stop, don’t go there. Nothing good will come out of comparisons. Begin to get grateful.. for your health and think about how great it is to not be in a hospital bed, for your children that don’t have an illness…you understand.

SMILE…its contagious and connects you to others.

Well, I hope this article has given you some ideas and direction about learning to find the GOOD in any situation. Your life is the only one you’ve got, so make it AMAZING!!

Cheers to a GREAT day! Heather

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