Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you are right.” Success comes down to a lot of factors, but one of the most important ones is how you think. If you follow the wrong thoughts, you may quit too early, or worse you many never begin. The good news is that by changing the way you think, you can also learn to change your life.
In his book, Learned Optimism, Dr. Martin Seligman points out that pessimists have opposite points of view than optimists when it comes to explaining why events turn out the way they do. Seligman calls these differences the three Ps. Pessimists see adverse outcomes in their lives as permanent, personal, and pervasive.
Let’s say that a pessimist attempted to go on a diet. Instead of losing the desired 15 lbs., they gained 5 lbs. Obviously, this is not the results they were hoping for, and almost anybody would be frustrated with this outcome. But instead of learning from their endeavor, creating a new plan of attack and trying again, they use the three P’s to explain what happened and why they failed.
They interpret the fact that they didn’t lose weight as meaning they will never lose weight. In other words, they see their weight problem as permanent. They begin to believe that no matter how little they eat or how much they exercise, they will always be overweight.
Pessimists tell themselves that not only is the problem they are facing permanent, but it is also personal. Being overweight is who they are. They blame their results on bad genetics, and erroneously conclude they were born to be fat. At its worse, they begin to believe the universe just has it out for them. “Why me?” is a familiar mantra amongst those who think this way.
Pessimists also begin to generalize that their unfortunate fate of being overweight is also why they fail in other areas of their life. In their mind, they arrive at the conclusion that because they have been unsuccessful in one area of their life, losing weight, they are also destined to fail in everything else they try. They are just unlucky and have been dealt a bad hand in life.
These beliefs lead to feeling helpless in all areas of their life. It keeps them from trying new things because they already believe they will fail. When and if they do try their hand at something new, their effort is minimal. After all, why would you expend much effort if you believe you will eventually fail?
Pessimists also downplay their successes, telling themselves that if they did well at something, then anyone could do well at that task. They conclude that it must have been easy, and that is why they did okay.
Thinking Like An Optimist
Optimists think in the polar opposites from pessimists. Optimists downplay the negative results in their life while taking credit for the positives. Instead of seeing their results as permanent, they see them as something to learn from in life. When they don’t get the results they want in life, they don’t take it personally. Instead, they make adjustments and try again. They experience the events in their lives as isolated moments in time. When something doesn’t go as planned, they don’t allow those poor results to contaminate the other areas of their life.
Having an optimistic attitude is necessary to turning your dreams into reality. Convince yourself that you will find a way to achieve what your objective. Don’t get discouraged by obstacles that pop up along the way. Know that setbacks are part of the journey to fulfilling your intentions and be prepared for them.
Once you decide that no matter what results you achieve on your path to success, you will learn from them, adjust, and keep going, then and only then will you fully understand Napoleon Hill’s statement, “Anything the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
Question: What area of you life could be improved by learning to think more optimistically? You can leave a comment by clicking here.