“The optimistic moments of our lives contain the great plans, the dreams, and the hopes. Reality is benignly distorted to give the dreams room to flourish.” Martin Seligman
It is no secret today that optimists do better in school, go to better universities, find better jobs, win more elections, lead longer and healthier lives, have a better control of their lives and have more success at work than pessimists do. In other words, it’s much profitable to be an optimist person than not. But how about pessimistic born people? Is learned optimism something that we can teach ourselves if given this circumstance? It is possible for them to change into optimistic ones?
Is learned optimism something that we can teach ourselves?
Maybe there is no other work domain where optimism is essential than selling. Selling goods or services or insurances or whatever requires great persistence and an ability to cope with many rejections. Selling businesses hire and fire employees all the time, because not every person can resist the pressure. Despite of being tested carefully and given extensive training, half of them quit anyway in the first year. Statistics shows that in the following four years 80 % quit their jobs, discouraged by the refuses they have to deal with. Once a salesman gets discouraged, he’ll take the no’s harder and harder and it takes more and
more effort for him or her to present the next offer or make a phone call. And especially pessimistic people are those who give up easily and become depressed.
On the other hand, the optimistic agent will talk to himself in more constructive ways, when facing rejection. He may attribute the refusal to some objective factors rather than to his personal selling abilities, for instant “Perhaps they already have insurance”, or “They are busy right now, but later on maybe will have a look on my proposal” etc. For the optimist, the next call won’t be any harder to make, and within a few minutes the agent will have gotten through to the one person in ten, on average, who accepts the offer. This little success will energize the optimistic agent, so he’ll breeze through the next ten calls and he’ll live up to his selling potential.
Failures are better supported by optimists
Let’s face it: there are times when we do fail irretrievably, and seeing those times through rose-colored glasses will not change them. However, it’s way much better to be an optimistic person in this time of failure than a pessimistic one. As they said, it’s better to be optimist and be wrong than pessimist and be right. Failures are better supported by optimists.
In his famous book “Optimism: The Biology of Hope” Lionel Tiger argues that the evolution of human species has been favored because of its optimistic approach to reality.
Martin Seligman, on the other hand, affirms that:
The capacity to blind ourselves to our own deeply held negative beliefs may be our remarkable defense against succumbing continually to depression.”
Even when pessimists are right and things turn out badly, they still feel worse. Their explanatory style now converts the predicted setback into a disaster, a disaster into a catastrophe.”
How to change pessimism into optimism
The big question is: Could we take a person who’s had five, ten or even fifty years of practice at thinking pessimistically and change him into an optimist?
Let’s face it: there is no other way to change from being a pessimist into an optimist than changing your thinking. There is no magic formula. You need to change the way you think.
What you think when things go wrong actually changes how you feel about everything that happens to you. Having an optimistic attitude means to see solutions and possibilities when are quite hard to see. Like any acquired habit, it will seem a little awkward when first tried, but in time it will be everyday easier and so rewarding that practice will be rather a pleasure than a burden.
Also, a good way to learn optimism is to surround yourself with optimistic people and to benefit from the positive energy they produce. If you do that for a longtime, one day you wake up and finally realize you have an optimistic lifestyle.