Optimism V Pessimism

Not realizing the importance of increasing an optimistic attitude and decreasing pessimism. Optimistic people have 3 important characteristics

i) they look for the benefits in every situation, especially when they experience setbacks; they are committed to finding answers and possess an expectation of success

ii) they see valuable lessons in every problem or difficulty, ie focus on what to improve upon and do differently next time

iii) they focus on the task to be accomplished rather than on negative emotions, such as disappointment or fear

"...optimism and resilience in the face of the adversity is the greatest long-term predictors of success for individuals and organisations. An overwhelming body of research demonstrates that optimists perform better at work, regularly outperform the predictions of aptitude tests, and have the greatest resistance to colds and other illnesses, and they recover faster from illness and injury. Optimists also make considerably more money!......your ability to deal disappointment in a positive, constructive way will do more to enable you to succeed and say more about you to other people than any other single factor..."

Martyn Newman, 2007


"...Many psychologists suggest that 95 percent of your emotions are determined by the way you talk to yourself......the way people explained events to themselves- their explanatory style. In other words, when things go wrong do you explain events in terms of your own fundamental incapability, thereby demotivating yourself and forestalling future attempts to succeed, or do you spin your interpretation of events in such a way as to encourage learning, adaptation and renewed efforts at success? The difference between being paralyzed by setbacks and bouncing back is, more often than not, how you explain the events happening to you and around you - your explanatory style..."

Martyn Newman, 2007

. Staff can learn to be more optimistic and less pessimistic by realizing that our reaction to any event is under your control, ie

"...If you respond in a positive, constructive way, you will maintain a generally positive attitude. When your mind is calm and clear you will become more creative and alert. You will also be more likely to see alternative ways to solve problems, and keep moving towards accomplishing your goals. When you respond in a negative or angry way to a problem or difficulty, you trigger a series of nervous reactions that shut down the most creative part of the brain. Instead of going into a 'react and respond' way of thinking, you develop a 'flight or flight' mentality. You can learn to think and succeed like an optimist by changing your explanatory style, even if you are a confirmed pessimistic......If you change the definition of a problem to a situation, a challenge or an opportunity, your response to the problem will be positive and constructive, rather than negative and angry. If you look at every problem as a potential opportunity, you will almost always find a prospective will benefit that you can take advantage of..."

Martyn Newman, 2007

. Not realizing that feeling good about ourselves (self-regard) is a solid defence against emotional difficulties and is a means of achieving our potential. This needs to be built upon a platform of solid achievement and knowing who you are. Otherwise, it can remain, at best, unconvincing and, at worst, arrogant self-absorption. Self-regard is built on 2 pillars: a feeling of self-worth or self-liking or self-esteem (liking and accepting who you are) and a feeling of self-competence (a feeling of being on top of the situation and possessing the expertise to manage life's challenges). Your level of self-regard is important in determining what you make happen in your life, ie the higher the level of self regard, the better you perform. Self regard is the result of the collection of your perceptions of yourself as determined by your experiences, choices, achievements, failures, ideas, emotions and opinions. There is a direct relationship between your performance and your level of self-regard and it is the benchmark in evaluating performance. Furthermore, the feedback you receive about how well you deal with certain challenges has a significant bearing on how confident you feel about your abilities.

. Need to be careful of negative self-talk or gross negative distortions. These can cause emotional distress and dysfunctional performance by clouding your judgment. This involves all thinking only in absolutes or extremes, ie seeing "black or white with no shades of grey". Imbued with this attitude, you jump to immediate conclusions; use stereotyping or labelling; form negative expectations or have pessimistic expectations. On the other hand, there is some research (Francis Flynn, 2011) that those who feel guilty work harder, perform better than other staff, are more likely to help others and promote the organisation.

. Not realizing that people need to have sufficient emotional resources to overcome their own egos so that they can help other people feel good and become successful, ie

"...empower others to own the group's success by building their people's competence and by listening to their views......make it possible for people to achieve things that they initially thought impossible......increasing performance that consists of creating positive expectations of people - psychologists refer to it as the Pygmalion effect......the phenomenon of self-fulfilling prophecies provides plenty of evidence that people act in ways that are consistent with other people's expectations of them..."

Martyn Newman, 2007

. Not realizing that the mere comprehension of a statement can result in tacit acceptance of its being true, whereas disbelief requires a substantial process of rejection. The brain appears to process statements as true more quickly than those judged as not true.

. Not realizing that attitudes such as criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling and contempt are poisonous for developing good relationships. Contempt is considered the worst as it communicates disgust; contempt leads to greater conflict and negativity; people in contemptuous relationships are more likely to suffer from infectious illnesses such as flu, colds, etc. Contempt attacks the immune system; fondness and admiration are antidotes.


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