Monday, August 8, 2011

Optimism: I Wouldn't Call Myself a Pessimist, but...

I would love to call myself an optimist...and not be lying through my teeth. In general I'd say I'm hopeful about the future and expect everything to turn out okay. Long term, I've got it down. Short term; however, is a different story all together. I frequently assume the worst will happen on a day to day basis. You could say I'm just optimistic that Murphy knew what he was talking about when he made that law.

Here's What I Know
Thinking positively will not only make you feel better about your circumstances and help you experience less stress, but it can also create a self-fulfilling prophecy of an abundant life filled with every good thing you fully expected to have. This is awesome. We should all want it.

The Problem
My pattern of thinking or life script or mental programming, or whatever you want to call it, has been so reinforced over the course of my life that changing my assumptions of what the world is and how it operates seems like an impossible task.

How do I change the way I look at the world? Can I train my eye to spot silver linings? I'm still looking in to it, but here are some ideas to think about trying.

1. Avoid the news. It's skewed toward sensational stories of murder, adultery, catastrophe, and celebrity. If you can't give up your afternoon news fix, try a site like that specializes in positive and uplifting stories.

2. Try "thought catching". I may use the term more loosely than cognitive therapists, so what I'm talking about is being aware of your thinking and "catching" any negative thoughts that may surface from time to time. Once caught, ignore that thought and instead think of something you feel good about. It doesn't matter what. If you think your presentation is going to go horribly and everyone is going to laugh at you, stop thinking about the presentation and think about how well you grill a steak instead. Think of that perfectly marinaded steak you made for the 4th of July. Think about how your family and friends went on and on about how juicy and tender it was. Once you're feeling more positive, you can go back to thinking about the presentation -- hopefully with a better attitude.

3. Fake it. I've tried this one. Although it hasn't yielded any life altering results, it is a good temporary fix. Just like it's hard to smile and not be happy, it's also hard to pretend to be an optimist without really being one. As you pretend to find the silver lining, you'll find that you're actually doing it.

As I try out life as an optimist I hope to give occasional updates and new ideas for others wanting to make this fundamental change in their lives.

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