Optimism Can be Learned

Presentation1Source: allposters.co.uk

Thought for the Week

“You are not the center of the universe, Alec. Not everything happens because of you! Do you think God gets up every morning, and says, ‘Boy, I’d love to do some terrific stuff today, but I can’t because Alec will just screw it all up’?” ~Healing River

According to happiness researcher Alex Lickerman, M.D., the core issue is our view of causality, where we see adversity as coming from.

Pessimists tend to attribute adversity “to forces that are internal (‘This is all my fault’), universal (‘This affects absolutely everything’), and immutable (‘This isn’t changeable’).” This places them at a disadvantage by preventing them from overcoming adversity, and making them prone to depression and PTSD.

On the other hand, Pollyanna-esque optimism isn’t the solution either. In fact, it can be just another form of self-explanatory style, resulting in a reduction in effort (“things always just work out for me”) and consequent failure.

The real solution, Lickerman says, may be adopting an explanatory flexibility style, i.e. reformulating how we think about and respond to negative events. The “ABCDE” model of learned optimism teaches people to do that by following these steps:

  • Adversity Think about what kind of adversity you’re facing (health, relationships, job) E.g. You’ve started a new exercise plan, but are having trouble sticking to it.
  • Belief What thoughts that are running through your head? “I’m no good at following my workout plan,” “I’ll never be able to reach my goals.”
  • ConsequenceWhat sort of behaviors have emerged from those beliefs? Did they keep you from reaching your goals, make it more difficult to stick to your plan, tend to skip workouts more or put in less effort? (Self-fulfilling prophecy).
  • Dispute Dispute your beliefs. Look for other examples that prove those beliefs wrong. E.g. consider other times you have set a goal, worked toward it, and reached it.
  • Energization Let your disputation (above) energize you to rethink, reformulate, and renew your efforts.

Clinical studies have shown the above approach helps people to move from a counter-productive self-explanatory style to a solution-oriented explanatory flexibility approach. So, no, it’s not about you…

But it is about how you respond.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
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20 Responses to Optimism Can be Learned

  1. Cheers ☺️sending joy ~ hedy

    Liked by 2 people

  2. ejstoo says:

    Neat … sort of Burns, “Feeling Good, the New Mood Therapy”. Have a great day 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. murisopsis says:

    It is all about choices… And the neat thing is we have the power to choose how we will respond.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Debi Walter says:

    Yes!! This is so practical and good. Thank you Mitch!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. K.L. Hale says:

    A former boss asked me, “Why are you always so optimistic?” I try hard to not be “Pollyanish”~I am a realist, too. What great information. This can help others who may not think optimism CAN be learned. Particularly in the world, as we know, it in the last nearly 24 months. 👏🏻

    Liked by 2 people

  6. gregoryjoel says:

    There was a joke going around recovery rooms several years ago but it could apply across the board at times – How many addicts (alcoholics, etc…) does it take to screw in a light bulb? The answer is one. They hold the bulb and the world revolves around them. You’re absolutely right sauying optimism can be learned. Thanks for reminding me to keep my attitude in adjustment!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Pingback: Optimism Can be Learned – ENLIGHTENMENT ANGELS

  8. I do believe optimism can be learned but sometimes I have a relapse.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. boblorentson says:

    I always liked the quote: I am a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimistic because of will.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Ann Coleman says:

    This reminded me of an article I read in my early teens, which basically said that if you’re always worried about what people think of you and what you are, or are not, doing, then you’re missing the fact that you’re not the center of the universe. That was a revelation to my teenage self, and one that I’ve never really forgotten. You’d think realizing that we are rather insignificant in the general scheme of things would be a bad thing, but it’s not. It’s actually rather liberating! Sort of like repeating, “God doesn’t need me to be in charge….because he is, not me!”

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I love this message–and the optic is great too!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Fortune Erondu says:

    I made a post explaining why and how the rich gets richer and the poor screwed. Read it here https://tlogministry.wordpress.com/2021/11/07/the-rich-gets-richer-the-poor-screwed/

    You can also check around the blog for other interesting articles and books.


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