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Optimistic versus Pessimistic Thinking

by Beth on September 14th, 2010

Optimistic people anticipate a bright future, expecting to achieve their goals.  Because of this, they are more willing to take risks and make changes.  Optimism can be self-fulfilling because people who expect good results are more likely to set difficult goals, expend effort in pursuing them, and persevere.

Optimistic Explanatory Style

The way you mentally explain the things that happen to you, your explanatory style, is at the heart of optimism.  Optimists explain positive events in terms of personal, permanent causes and negative events in terms of external, temporary causes.

Let’s say you made a presentation that the client loved.  If you were an optimist you might attribute your success to your presentation skills.  Since your skills are personal and permanent, you are likely to give successful presentations in the future.  If the client hadn’t liked your presentation, your explanation might be that they were preoccupied with an important problem.  You expect your future presentations to be successful because the reason for failure was the client’s temporary problem, not your lack of skills.

Pessimistic Explanatory Style

Pessimists have the opposite explanatory style.  They personally blame themselves for bad events and think the cause was something permanent.  When something good happens, they tend to attribute it to luck and see the cause as temporary.

If your boss is unhappy with your budget proposal and you are a pessimist, you may attribute it to the fact that you’ve never been any good with numbers.  Because you view your failure as due to something personal and permanent, you don’t expect your boss to like your proposals in the future either.  Had your boss liked your proposal, you might feel it is because she was in an especially good mood.  Probably won’t get that lucky again!

What is your explanatory style?  The first step to becoming an optimist is to become aware of your thought patterns.  In my next blog I’ll give you the rest of the steps for optimistic thinking!

From → Optimism, Success

  1. Gamini permalink

    you are right about the thought patterns. can it be that these patterns were inbeded in a person in childhood?

  2. Beth permalink

    I do think our thought patterns can be influenced by those around us. If people from our childhood tended to explain events in a certain way that could affect the way we tend to see things. But the good news is that once we are aware of our thought patterns we can change them!

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