In my previous post (Be Right or Be Happy) I invited you to join us in the ranks of optimists. Well, last night I found out, I am not an optimist. In fact, I am “severely hopeless” according to the Optimism Test found at www.authentichappiness.com It might be tempting to dismiss the findings but actually I think it’s accurate. This could be one of the more important findings of my own path to be happier. You see, Martin Seligman purports that optimism can be dissected into two parts permanence and pervasiveness. So, when things go wrong, do you say something like “I’m so stupid!”? Can you see the pervasiveness and permanence of this label you have slapped onto yourself? In contrast, “Sometimes I do really stupid things” leaves room for hope. Okay, you made a mistake but are not damning yourself for all eternity. The latter statement also gives wiggle room that sometimes you do things right too – so it is not pervasive. These differences are subtle but significant. So, in taking the test and honestly looking at how I respond to such boo-boos, I am quick to judge myself harshly. This is GREAT! I feel the way I imagine kids who have struggled with a learning disorder might feel when being diagnosed: on the one hand, it’s difficult to be diagnosed as “severely pessimistic” but now I can DO something about it! Now I can make a conscious choice to start watching my self-talk and (out loud) language more carefully for words like “never”, “always” and labels. I can replace these words with more optimistic choices such as “sometimes” or “maybe”. While I’m dissecting optimism and pessimism, I offer one last tidbit courtesy of Sonja Lyubomirsky. In her book, The How of Happiness, she adds one other dimension to the mix: internal vs. external. Do you blame yourself or external circumstances? Let’s look at two examples:
You lost a race. Your response:
A. I’m a loser
B. It wasn’t my day
In the first example, it is permanent, pervasive and internal. The second statement is temporary, transient and external.
Are you a true optimist? Take the challenge: go to www.authentichappiness.com
A final thought about your words, care of that prolific writer, Anonymous:
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
Licensed Professional Counselor