Optimizing Optimism

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A large part of optimism is believing that “goodness” pervades reality. Makes sense, then,   that optimists are typically of good mood. But what if you don’t consider yourself an optimist or just aren’t in a ‘good mood’ kind of place right now? What then? Or more to the point, HOW then? How can you reset, relaunch, and/or rejigger your mood?

How can you “optimize your optimism,” if you will, quickly and efficiently – in an “Occam’s Razor” kind of way?

Attributed to the 14th-century English logician and theologian William of Occam, Occam’s Razor, refers to the law of parsimony, economy or succinctness, as in the best (and fastest) way to truly understand something is by, first, eliminating as many assumptions as you can about it – like me assuming I hadn’t already written something about this somewhere in my GottaGettaBLOG! archives because, indeed, I did.

Titled, “Separating Yourself from Your Problems,” the following was first published in February 2006 and STILL seems like a good way to approach things:

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Separating Yourself from Your Problems

How good are you at separating yourself from your problems? Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism, suggests that this is yet another thing that optimists can do better than pessimists. Here are some of the distinctions that Dr. Seligman makes between the two groups:

Yes, Pessimists (and Optimists who’ve stopped feeling particularly optimistic) tend to see their problems as Permanent, Personal, and Pervasive, while Optimists (and Pessimists doing their best to empower their optimistic tendencies) tend to see their problems as Temporary, External, and Specific.

Note that sometimes pessimism is the more prudent perspective to hold, such as when the cost of potential failure is extremely high. But being pessimistic out of habit isn’t always in your best interest.

So, if you’re bothered by incessant a pessimistic attitude and negative self-talk, try this:

  • Try looking at your situation as temporary and not permanent. “This, too, shall pass” is a good thing to keep in mind.
  • Try recognizing that while the problem you’re facing may be negatively affecting you, it’s not about you – even if it’s still yours to remedy.
  • Try defining the problem as specifically as possible, so that you can recognize parts of the situation that are not the problem. Challenge the assumption that the problem is yet another example of a more pervasive set of problems. (It may well be, but don’t just assume that it is – make Occam proud!)

Don’t worry if the shift doesn’t come easy at first. Like anything else of import, sometimes it takes practice. So practice. Practice being optimistic. And if positive thinking seems too big of a leap for you, start by practicing non-negative thinking.

Help the problems you face feel more manageable, more doable, and less burdensome by separating yourself from your problems and you’ll have far more energy to deal with whatever problems do come your way.

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Simpler still, I’m just going to go take a brisk walk around the block and shake it all off!

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