I feel a great sense of optimism about 2017, in spite of meeting friends during the holidays who spoke of the year ahead with a near-apocalyptic sense of dread. Their concerns varied from the impact of the “Big Picture” (Trump, Brexit and so on) to financial worries and one or two more personal concerns. What struck me though was that their assumptions about what could happen were already creating the script for what actually would occur.
In truth we are all both optimists and pessimists several times a day, faced with different situations. My sense of optimism is deliberate and pragmatic, rather than wishful. Whenever something “happens to us” we have a choice to be optimistic or pessimistic.
There is of course no “right” way to react to any situation – and the different ways we feel make us what we are. What is more interesting is the way we come to our perspectives. The brain invents a “counter fact” to events that affect us – an alternate scenario our brains create to help us evaluate and make sense of what really happened. It could be “Well it could have been a lot worse” or “That’s pretty unlucky” or anything in between.
We have the choice over what counter fact we select, one that makes us feel either fortunate or helpless. This then goes on to influence far more than one’s attitude to an individual event. Those who pick positive counter facts are open their minds up to a whole range of subsequent perceived benefits to spur their motivation further.
Research shows that people with positive counter facts have more successful careers, relationships and even live longer. Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology and author of “Learned Optimism”, noticed that people who bounced back from setbacks all shared a positive way of interpreting adversity or what researchers called optimistic explanatory style.
For this reason alone, I’m going to be doggedly, deliberately optimistic in 2017. What about you? Are you optimistic or pessimistic? And about what?