The Difference Between Optimists and Pessimists
Life can be hard!! Losing a job or failing in business can be downright scary and discouraging. Getting rejected from our dream college can feel devastating. Then there’s the frustration of not being able to afford the things we want. It’s like the universe is against us, and nothing seems to go right.
When life throws us a curveball, how do we respond? Do we let ourselves become victims, throwing in the towel? Or how do we get better at picking ourselves up and mustering the courage to try again or find a new path?
Martin Seligman, known as the Father of Positive Psychology, introduced a concept called “learned optimism” and highlighted the key differences between optimists and pessimists in three crucial areas.
- Personalization – When something goes wrong, pessimists tend to take it personally, seeing it as a reflection of their own inadequacies. They internalize the struggle, thinking they’re just not good enough. Optimists see it as a bad situation that does not define who they are or what they are capable of.
- Pervasiveness – If one thing goes bad, a pessimist carries it over to other parts of their life, too. If something goes wrong in one area, they start believing they’re failing in every other aspect too. It’s like a domino effect of negativity. An optimist understands that a struggle in one area doesn’t mean their whole life is falling apart. They can compartmentalize and keep a positive outlook in other areas.
- Permanence – A pessimist believes that if something is hard or bad, it will always be that way. The optimist believes circumstances can improve and situations can get better with time and effort.
As my daughter transitions from high school to college, it strikes me that school teaches us a lot of subjects; math, English, science, etc., but they often neglect to equip us with the essential life skills we need to thrive, like how to build our optimism.
So the next time life throws you a curveball, find more optimism by remembering not to take it personally, not to let it affect other areas of your life, and that it is temporary.