Why optimism isn't always the best strategy

World-weary cynics are rarely floored by grief when outcomes are not as sunny as the Pollyannas among us might hope.

WHAT struck me about Barack Obama's victory in the US Presidential elections this week was the optimism with which he opened and closed his emotional and intensely moving acceptance speech.

Suddenly the world seemed a little less grim. Hope was bursting on to the horizon. He began with the words, “America is a place where all things are possible”. And, in case there were any doubters in his ecstatic audience, ended with the chanted message: “Yes, we can”.

Well, who really knows whether that's true? Sceptics might call such optimism “hope in the face of reason”, and question how one man can possibly change all that is wrong with the United States and, indeed, with the world.

But optimism itself can be a surprisingly powerful force that is shown to extend lives and improve people's health and wellbeing. Optimism comes in two varieties: dispositional and situational. The former is hardwired. Some of us are just sunnier than others, no matter what our circumstances, thanks to the helpful deck of genes that fate dealt us when we were born.

Situational optimism, on the other hand, is what we feel when we use information to calculate success at a particular point - when the state of Virginia went for Obama for instance. What is curious (and contrary to our assumptions) is that pessimism is not the opposite of optimism. They are actually quite separate traits. And while optimism is good for our health, pessimism is not.

Source - Times

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this article. As a cognitive behavior therapist working with kids and families on anxiety management and yes, optimistic thinking, I think the key is that when we are paralysed by fear or negative views of the future we create a self-fulfilling prophecy-- there is nothing we can do to help ourselves because we can't even think straight. If however we work on what is in our control (as opposed to getting locked into what is outside of our control) our mood changes, we begin to create a better reality. I write in my new book, Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking, that the opposite of negative thinking isn't positive thinking, it is *possible* thinking-- when we free ourselves up to consider what is realistically possible, we can move into a more optimal existence. Tamar Chansky www.freeingyourchild.com

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