Volume 114, February 2012: Optimism: Cultivating the Habit of Positivity

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2012 ISSN # 1545-8873

“Man is affected not by his circumstances, but rather the view he takes of them.” — Albert Ellis re-quoting William James

When things go wrong, what do you tell yourself? Listen to your own internal dialogue. Is it negative, permanent ("This will ruin my career"), pervasive ("People are always like this"), and personal (I must be really incompetent")?

Begin to dispute your pessimistic explanations, and talk back to the inner voice. "Well, that was a learning experience." "This guy must be having a bad day." "No point in being down on myself – mistakes like this happen to everyone." Emerge from helplessness, take control of your thinking, and energize yourself into action. Optimism is learnable. And it is infectious.

The correlates of optimism are:

  • positive mood and good morale
  • perseverance
  • effective problem-solving
  • academic, military, occupational, and political success
  • good health
  • long life
  • freedom from trauma

When bad things happen, Martin Seligman (in Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, 2006) tells us that the art of hope is finding temporary and specific causes for misfortune. He also encourages us to focus on the changeable, the specific, and the non-personal. (I didn’t do anything to call this on myself. Next time I’ll ask for help.)

Practice Point

For the next misfortune you encounter this week, reframe it as a learning experience. “Well, at least that is out of the way. What a learning.”


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