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Posts Tagged ‘optimist’

I know I didn’t write for a while, I had my reasons. But I read recently this book, “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time” by Mark Haddon and I wanted to quote a part of it- because it’s beautiful, simple and so logic. The narrator is an autistic 15 years old boy.

“In the bus on the way to school next morning we passed 4 red cars in a row, which meant that it was a Good Day, so I decided not to be sad about Wellington.

Mr. Jeavons, the psychologist at the school, once asked me why 4 red cars in a row made it a Good Day, and 3 red cars in a row made it a Quite Good Day, and 5 red cars in a row made it a Super Good Day, and why 4 yellow cars in a row made it a Black Day, which is a day when I don’t speak to anyone and sit on my own reading books and don’t eat my lunch and Take No Risks. He said that I was clearly a very logical person, so he was surprised that I should think like this because it wasn’t very logical.

I said I liked things being in a nice order. And one way of things being in a nice order was to be logical. Especially if those things were numbers or an argument. But there were other ways of putting things in a nice order. And that was why I had Good Days and Black Days. And I said that people who worked in an office came out of their house in the morning and saw that the sun was shining and it made them feel happy, or they saw that it was raining and it made them feel sad, but the only difference was the weather and if they worked in an office the weather didn’t have anything to do with whether they had a good day or a bad day.

I said that when Father got up in the morning he always put his trousers on before he put his socks on and it wasn’t logical but he always did it that way, because he liked things in a nice order, too. Also whenever he went upstairs he went up two at a time, always starting with his right foot. (…)”

I think most of us have some kind of “thing” or “ritual” that makes us think “well, this is going to be a very good day!” or just the contrary. And why not? Today I had one of these things happening (nice dream, then positive phone call) and maybe it will be obvious to all of you, but I just thought “maybe I have a Good Day and something special will happen to me”. This is just the proof of how apparently meaningless events can be meaningful to someone. We are to decide whether something has an importance to us or not. Then, this is up to us to try to make each day a Good Day and keep a positive attitude, even though I know that it can be extremely tough sometimes. So I will see how my Good Day continues 🙂 And I wish lots of Good Days to all of you!

My nephew, this was definietely a Good Day with a great smile!

My nephew, this was definitely a Good Day with a great smile!

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This morning I thought: “it’s a disaster” and seconds later my own thoughts told me “no, it’s a challenge”. This simple switch of perspective that my brain or conscious thoughts made automatically allowed me to take or plan different set of actions- I know myself and if I would stay with “it’s a disaster” idea, I wouldn’t do anything in particular to change it (because it’s impossible to change a disaster, isn’t it?) or I wouldn’t do anything in particular full stop (the “disaster mode” serves as an excuse for not undertaking any kind of action, not trying, therefore not risking failure or not risking success [for fear of success read my previous posts]). The word disaster, itself, has strong emotional connotations, almost extreme. A word of this strength can easily lead to what is called catastrophic thinking and trigger a feeling of anxiety, helplessness and maybe panic.

I am not exactly sure how I made the switch of perspective into “it’s a challenge”. It’s true that I am interested in positive psychology, I am making some exercises to boost my optimism and I try to read about this subject. But honestly, I was having some serious doubts if it works because I wasn’t feeling more optimistic (or simply less pessimistic), I couldn’t observe any positive changes in my life, etc. And today that thought. The new, empowering perspective.

If I am going through something very difficult, there is nothing (or little) that could have the power of a “challenge” perspective. The challenge motivates me, it gives me strength to persevere in actions I have to undertake, my ambition somehow wakes up and assists me like a supportive friend- “don’t give up” “you are able to achieve it” “you can do much better” “it’s worth the effort”. I like to be able to see things as challenges and then be the winner instead of being the loser from the very beginning (only because I think that there is nothing I can do to change my situation). Challenge feels good.

Different researches in the field of Positive Psychology (mostly by its founder, Dr. Seligman) proved that we do not all have the same predisposition for optimism. Whether you are an optimist or pessimist depends also on the package of genes you received from your family. Of course, the external conditions in your life have also a great influence on your thinking, on your mood and how you perceive what is happening. But still, some people have a predisposition for optimism while other can work on it.

Actually, this discovery is something extremely useful for people who, just like me, don’t have the predisposition for optimism. The lack of predisposition will remain, but you can include in your daily schedule some simple and short exercises which have the potential to enhance the greatest change for you. If you would like to find out more about these exercises, please read Dr. Martin Seligman books or email me for more information. After all, we can all have a good day even if it started with a “disaster” !

is it really a disaster or can you switch perspective?

is it really a disaster or can you switch perspective?

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Few years ago, I noticed that chronic pessimists prefer to call themselves “realists”, while optimists just admit being positive concerning the upcoming events and they don’t really care if you agree with them or not. Of course, they would never understand nor accept the negativity of the pessimist.

I have a great example of this optimists- pessimists- realists “war” at home. My dad is an optimist- even on a cloudy, grey day, when wind was bringing snow to our faces (it was a skiing holiday) he would, freezing, sit down on the ski lift and look at the sky for some sun. Then (still in the air on the lift), he would say that this mini-millimeter of brightness behind the clouds we could see is the sign that sun, within maximum 1 hour, will come and we will have a marvellous day of skiing. At the very same moment, my mom- a declared realist- was at home, resting and having fun in her own way.

The morning I am talking about, the very first thing she did was looking at the window. “The time is awful, it’s cold, there are huge clouds everywhere and it won’t go away, there is no and there will be no sun today, you will see. Do what you want, I prefer to stay at home”.

Back in our ski lift, Lucas (my husband), my dad and I (the two of us looking a little sceptically for this brightness he would be so excited about), started to debate on the difference between a pessimist and a realist. Is my mom the first or the second one? (maybe I should mention here that when you are on a ski lift with other people, you are there, not really being able to move, for around 30 minutes that can be only used for a conversation). Lucas, based on his academical background, would come with a theory: my mom certainly went through difficult experiences in the past and those experiences generated some kind of memory that doesn’t allow her to enjoy the beautiful day we were having, freezing in our ski lift. His theory included some more stuff that I can’t remember right now, but it sounded convincingly, although a little out of the subject. Pessimist or realist, then?

I am telling you this story because while reading about seeking happiness, I found an interesting presentation of the very same debate- but this one based on researches and studies.

Various  researches have shown that “depressed people are sadder but wiser than happy people (the author was using “depressed” as synonym of “pessimist”)”. Depressive realism makes people better judges of how much skill they have than other judge them to be. Does it mean that most of us, if we are not pessimist, overestimate our skills?

“Happy people remember more events than actually happened, and they forget more of the bad events. Depressed people, in contrast, are accurate about both. Happy people are lopsided in their beliefs about success and failure: if it was a success, they did it, it’s going to last and they’re good at everything; if it was a failure, you did it to them, it’s going away quickly, and it was just this one little thing. Depressed people, in contrast, are evenhanded in assessing success and failure. (…) This does indeed make happy people look empty-headed.”

To resume: pessimists are realists, therefore accurate about their judgments, while optimists see what they want to see and they live happy. They probably also live longer. And even if they don’t, they estimate their lives in positive terms, remembering the good things that happened to them. Pessimists probably live shorter, more often get sick and when they die, they still remember what bad things happened to them in 1973…

Lucas with my dad, the true optimist

Lucas with my dad, the true optimist

The quotes come from the book “Authentic Happiness” by Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., 2002, Free Press, p. 37-38

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