There is a story of identical twins. One was a hope-filled optimist. “Everything is coming up roses!” he would say. The other was a sad and hopeless pessimist. He thought that Murphy, as in Murphy’s Law, was an optimist. The worried parents of the boys brought them to the local psychologist. He suggested to the parents a plan to balance the twin’s personalities.
“On their next birthday, put them in separate rooms to open their gifts. Give the pessimist the best toys you can afford and give the optimist a box of manure.” The parents followed these instructions and carefully observed the results.
Tiptoeing across the corridor, the parents peeked in and saw their little optimist gleefully throwing the manure up in the air. He was giggling. “You can’t fool me! Where there’s this much manure, there’s gotta be a pony!”
…Author Unknown From More Sower’s Seeds by Brian Cavanaugh
“People’s beliefs about their abilities have a profound effect on those abilities,” says Stanford psychologist Albert Bandura. For example, people who are hopeful and have confidence in the future and in each other (optimists) tend to be more successful than those who lack confidence in the future and see the worst in people (pessimists). People with a “glass is half full” attitude see failure as a learning experience. When faced with difficult obstacles, they formulate a new plan of action, seek out advice, and plow forward no matter what. People with a “glass is half empty” mindset tend to see setbacks as a personal deficit. This can plague them throughout their lives. They may blame themselves, or others, for their failure and get hung up on the roadblocks of life keeping them feeling stuck, defeated and hopeless.
Understanding these different attitudes is important because one’s expectation or attitude about the future has a lot to do with success. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that student’s score on a test measuring optimism were a better predictor of their grades than their SAT scores or high school grades. This is because college entrance exams measure talent, and talent alone is not enough for success. Success is the combination of talent and the ability to keep going in the face of defeat. And to be able to keep going in the face of defeat, one needs hope and confidence in the future.
Please don’t fret if you have a tendency toward pessimism. You are not doomed.
- First of all, none of us are completely one or the other. We exhibit a combination of both optimistic and pessimistic attitudes.
- Secondly, studies show that optimism, although partly determined by genetics, is also determined by environment and social behavior. This is good news. It means anyone can learn to be more optimistic.
Take this quick test to find out whether you are more optimistic or pessimistic:
- Do you view most things are your fault?
- Do you have "all or nothing" thinking?
- Do problems become catastrophes?
- Are you a perfectionist?
- Do you have a hard time accepting compliments?
- Do you seek the approval and opinion of others before acting?
- Do you tend to over-generalize?
- Do you focus on the negative minutiae?
If you answered "yes" to four or more of thesequestions you are more of a pessimist than an optimist. (Quiz taken from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/how-help-friend/201603/are-you-optimist-or-pessimist)
If you would like to adapt a more optimistic attitude, Barrie Davenport, author of Live Bold andBloom, says there are some things you can do to change your perspective and see the glass as half full:
- Change your narrative and avoid catastrophic thinking. Stay away from words like awful, disgusting, horrible, dreadful, revolting, repulsive, etc.
- Give credit where credit is due, yourself!
- “Fake it, till you make it!” In other words, act “as if" you are an optimist.
- When you fail at something, think about the lessons you learned instead of the disappointment you feel.
And when all else fails, this Winnie the Pooh quote will save the day!
“What day is it?” asked Pooh.
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.” --A.A. Milne