Are you an optimist or a pessimist? If you feel like you’ve been looking at life with a negative lens lately, here is how to think like an optimist in 6 steps. Train your brain to stop thinking pessimistically – so you can feel happier and more confident.
It happens to all of us.
If you’re feeling particularly angry at life right now, I’ve got a terrific tool which has been proven to help people to think like an optimist.
Dr. Martin Seligman, director of the U of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center, says a lot of your love (or hate) for life is dependent upon “the stories” you tell yourself.
This “self-talk” can either enable you to persist in the face of challenges – or completely disable you.
Martin Seligman describes it like this: “Pessimists, who generally don’t bounce back easily from bad times, see failure as permanent, pervasive, and personal. They tell themselves things like: ‘My life is ruined!’ and ‘This bad thing is going to undermine everything.’”
Optimistic people, in contrast, tell themselves that setbacks are temporary – confined to that one situation. Optimists tend not to get angry at the universe.
Optimists simply assume that bad events are an exception – and good things will continue to happen.
If lately a lot of bad stuff has been happening, you’ve got to mindfully train your brain to think like an optimist – so you can feel happier and more confident again.
Dr. Seligman has partnered up with Dr. Karen Reivich to create a specific process for thinking more like an optimist – that’s literally as easy as A B C D E.
Write down the 5 letters A, B, C, D. E on 5 different pages of your journal.
Write down the nature of your “Adversity.”
Describe the situation in terms of…
Think of yourself as a reporter writing down the facts and nothing but the facts.
Be as objective and as unemotional as possible.
To identify your “Beliefs,” slow down and listen to your self-talk.
Specifically listen for beliefs that sound “permanent, pervasive, and personal.”
It takes practice and lots of self-awareness to identify your “self-talk” or “story,” but it’s important that you learn to recognize your self-defeating (and inaccurate) Beliefs.
Take some notes on the chatter in your brain.
Listen to yourself. Write it down. Capture it.
Become aware of how your wrongly held beliefs might be causing you to think or behave negatively. Is there anything you’ve stopped doing? Any new habits you’ve picked up?
In other words, how has your Adversity changed you?
Question the reality and accuracy of your interpretation.
“I’ll never get a job.”
“This always happens.”
“I’m an idiot.”
Come up with an alternative (and more realistic) way of looking at what happened.
Restate your beliefs so they’re more accurate.
Start your sentences with…
Disputing often puts us in a resourceful place. When you have been effective in disputing the beliefs, you feel a surge of energy, a sense of renewed hope.
Write about how your answers to #4 improved your “Energy.”
Stop the “negative loop” of self-defeating self-stories and focus instead on the “upside of suffering and stress.”
(I write about this more in an article here.)
Swap feeling like you’re wearing a “KICK ME” sign – and start feeling like you’re wearing a “KICK ASS” sign!
Recognize that you are strong and worthy – and you have it within you to create the life you want for yourself – if you just take each day one day at a time!