With all the negative news and the common tendency to turn activities into drudgery of shoulds instead of thinking of them opportunities to work (play?) at making a difference, Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman is a book that more people should know about and read.

If you can allocate the time you should really read the book to get the benefits of the evidence and research backing up the theory, practice, and resulting benefits of optimism but here are some key points:

  • Things, which can often be perceived as being bad, happen to everyone but what really matters is how you think about (explain) what has happened and respond.
  • If you think pessimistically you discourage yourself and when you are demotivated you become helpless because there seems to be no reason to try and take action.


  • When responding to
    • Adversity you need to fight against the tyranny of your limiting
    • Beliefs so you can achieve better
    • Consequences.
  • You can learn to do this by changing your explanatory style to
    • Dispute limiting beliefs and
    • Energize yourself to take action which will make the best of the situation.
  • The is the ABCDE model where Disputing limiting beliefs and getting Energized are the difference makers.
  • The place to start is to become aware of your internal and external dialogues on how you explain adversity.

3P’s of Explanatory Style

  • What to watch for in particular are three aspects of explanatory style which can be referred to as the 3P‘s
    • Permanent – does the bad thing really have as permanent a result as you might first think?
    • Pervasive – does the bad thing have a broad implication or is it really specific to one area?
    • Personal – is it really all about you are can the situation be explained to at least partially be due to other causes?
  • Pessimists tend to see failures as permanent, pervasive, and personal.
  • You can learn to be more optimistic by investigating whether problems can be at least partially explained as being temporary, specific, and due to outside causes.

Business Optimism

You can also learn how to be an optimist in business without being an idiot by practicing disciplined optimism.

Of course there are also optimist clubs which have the following creed:

The Optimist Creed

Promise Yourself:

  • To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
  • To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.
  • To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.
  • To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
  • To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.
  • To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
  • To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
  • To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
  • To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
  • To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

Benefits of Optimism

In his book Martin Seligman provides research evidence that the benefits of optimism are real results not just wishful thinking. Here are some results of optimism:

  • More popularity (as shown for example by election results)
  • Better health by linkage between emotions and your immune system
  • Better results by avoiding learned helplessness and trying harder
  • More success in Sports
  • More resilience to stress by taking action
  • Resistance to depression that isn’t caused by chemical imbalances
One Response to Optimism
  1. Brother Steve
    July 19, 2010 | 1:11 pm

    An interesting perspective. Definitely a good plug for reading the book. I am going to pick one up! Steve

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