Think like an Optimist

By David Ryback, Ph.D.

There has been much research done on learned optimism that uncovers the fact that there are three dimensions of an event that make us feel good or bad about our involvement: our degree of personal involvement, the degree of permanence we anticipate for a given event, and the degree and level of pervasiveness. So the next time you feel bad about an event that turns out poorly, look at how you explain it.

First, do you take personal responsibility for causing the negative outcome? Second, do you see the outcome as permanent and unchangeable, or is it something you can change if you put your energy behind it? Third, is this outcome going to affect your whole life, or can you put limits on its effects? If you see the outcome as your responsibility, unable to be changed, and affecting everything in your life, then you’re thinking like a pessimist. On the other hand, if you can explain the event as having external causes (only part of which may be your responsibility), being easily changed if you marshal your resources effectively, with limited effect on the rest of your life, then you’re thinking like an optimist.

Is it really your fault? Check it out. It’s unlikely that you are totally responsible for a mess-up at work. Be realistic about that.

So start thinking like an optimist. You’re not totally responsible for everything. As a matter of fact, you’re just one of many who make things happen at work. If you stay aware of your decision-making process, you’re less likely to make foolish errors. Nothing is as pervasive at you are likely to image it if you can take an objective perspective.

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