Whether you know of him or not, a debt of gratitude is owed to the research into optimism and pessimism made by Dr. Martin Seligman. A past president of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Seligman is the author of numerous books on the subjects of optimism and pessimism and how they affect the way we look at our world and interact with it.
How do you find out if you are an optimist or pessimist? Ask yourself the question: How do I think when bad things happen to me? A pessimist lets the bad thing contaminate everything in their life: home, work, relationships – the works. It is called “globalizing.” An optimist, on the other hand, isolates the bad. “It’s just this one piece that’s not so good; everything else is OK.”
The other thing a pessimist does is “eternalize” the bad thing. “It’s awful now, and it’s going to be this way forever. Nothing is ever going to go right again.” An optimist puts a time-frame on it. “Yes, it’s going to be painful for a while, but I’ll get through it. Things will change for the better.” Pessimists tend to take accountability for the entire mess they are in, whether it was entirely their fault or not, while optimists take accountability for what they caused, and realize that there were other factors involved.
Now, let’s turn it around. How do you think when good things happen? A pessimist calls it a one-time thing, believes it won’t last, and minimizes their part in the success. The optimist? An optimist lets the good things color everything they do, believes that it will last forever, and takes credit for their part in the success – “I caused it.”
You are starting to see a pattern. Pessimists have an external locus of control, and typically see themselves as victims. Everything happens TO them. The pessimist mindset is one of, “It’s all about me.” The optimist, on the other hand, has an internal locus of control, takes control of the situation at hand, and sets about making better things happen. Optimists know they can affect change, themselves.
Optimist or Pessimist? It’s all about that internal picture you hold in your mind – and the choice of which path to follow is always ours to make.