‘Optimism’

A Positive Spin On Positive Thinking

imagesPositive thinking can work against you. Instead of moving you towards your goals, it can decrease your motivation and drive. Mental contrasting, which is combining positive thinking with “realism”, is a more effective approach. How is it done? For a few minutes you think of your goal, reaching it, and letting your mind wander where it will. Then spend a few more minutes imagining the obstacles that stand in the way of realizing your goal.

This simple process has produced powerful results in laboratory experiments. The most powerful results were achieved when mental contrasting was used with relatively reasonable goals and not solely focused on fantasy or obstacles. If the goals are not reasonable or attainable, we have a tendency to disengage from them. It impedes action; in the same way that positive thinking alone impedes action.

Further studies have shown that people who engaged in mental contrasting recovered from chronic back pain better, behaved more constructively in relationships, got better grades in school and even managed stress better in the workplace.

Positive thinking can be pleasurable, but attaining goals requires a more balanced approach, as with so many things in life!


Maisy The Optimistic Dog

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”              — Thomas Edison

My dog Maisy is a role model for us all as her optimism is unwavering, even in tough times. She consistently believes with all her heart that she will be taken out for walks and that good food will appear in her bowl, she will get treats and belly rubs, persists and maintains her belief even after repeated failure, takes action to improve her situation, and is ever hopeful. She is successful, happy and healthy.

She is not consumed with false optimism. If she is left at home, she does not deny that harsh reality. She simply accepts it and has faith that with persistent work at being a good dog she will prevail. Her optimism includes hard work and passion (yes, she has great passion about walks and food). Even though Thomas Edison was not a dog, Maisy is a big fan. Edison had 1800 failed experiments before inventing the light bulb. Maisy has been left home at least that many times, and still celebrates each outing with pure joy.

If you would like to improve your health, happiness and level of success by becoming an optimist, you can, even if you have the disadvantage of being a human. Thomas Edison did.

How To Be a Realistic Optimist

There are three elements essential to being an optimist; action, imagination, and rational thinking. These elements work together and feed off of each other. So if we take action and work hard, we create success, which motivates us to work hard. And if we can imagine or visualize our success our minds will help us create an external reality to match our internal reality.

Rational thought is a skill that you can hone. You may believe that rational thinkers cannot possibly be optimistic in today’s world, but that is not the case. In fact, much pessimism reflects distorted thinking. Some examples of distorted thinking are to believe that the way things are now are the way they will always be or that we are in an all or nothing situation. We do not see the whole picture, and dismiss the positive aspects of a situation.

How can you have realistic optimism? Along with action and imagination, know that reality is created by what we focus on, the questions that we ask. So, ask yourself: am I magnifying, minimizing, ignoring part of the picture?

Successful, happy people and dogs perceive the world as optimists. They see the negative as temporary and as opportunities to learn, and the positive as a catalyst to enhance and celebrate.


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