An optimist falls off a horse - image for article by Greg Alder

There are some excellent reasons for being optimistic. For starters, optimists live longer than pessimists. Psychological analysis of patients at the Mayo Clinic showed that optimists live 19% longer than pessimists – a statistic sure to make pessimists miserable.

In a study of nuns, scientists found that 90% of the most positive nuns were still alive at 84 (and 54% of these were still going at 94). On the other hand, only 34% of the least optimistic nuns were still alive.

Another good reason to be optimistic is that optimists achieve more in life. An experiment by the psychologist Martin Seligman found that optimistic insurance salesmen outsell their pessimistic colleagues by 57%.

If it holds true for insurance salesmen, there’s no reason to doubt that it holds true for the rest of us. At the end of the day, every one of us is selling something.

Need more reasons? Optimistic people are less susceptible to illness. Their hearts are healthier. They earn higher incomes. They have better relationships.

When something bad happens in life, pessimists wonder what they did wrong.

Pessimists are so afraid of making the same mistake again that they avoid anything with the potential to go wrong. In their pessimistic world, that would include pretty much everything.

When something bad happens to a pessimist, someone’s to blame.

A pessimist falls off a horse.

And stays off.

He knew he shouldn’t have got into the saddle in the first place. Horses don’t like him. Especially this horse. The stirrups were too low. The saddle was too tight. The saddle was too loose. The horse was highly strung. The horse was despondent.

When something bad happens in an optimist’s life, nobody has to take the blame. She knows that things will get better.

An optimist falls off a horse.

And gets back on.

Even the best riders have occasional falls, she reminds herself.

So, the big question for pessimists is, “Can I become an optimist?”.

The answer’s yes. And no.

Pessimism and optimism are mindsets. If a pessimist determines to become more optimistic, he can.

However, a pessimist can be determined to be pessimistic. His mind is set. In which case, he can’t.

So, if you like the idea of living longer and achieving more in life, become an optimist. Here’s how:

1. Give thanks

Start each day by listing the things for which you feel thankful. If your list includes people, let them know. Once a week, look at each day’s list. What are the recurring items on your list? Make time to do these more often, or for longer each day.

2. Find purpose

Where do you want to be in 5 years? What do you want to be remembered for? What do you do that you love doing? Whatever it is, make this your purpose, your pole star, your guiding light.

If your job is one that you don’t love, it’s contributing to your pessimism. Pessimism keeps us in jobs we don’t love, because we think we can’t get a job elsewhere. We always can. Think about your dream job. Don’t give up until you’re doing it.

3. Change your environment

Pessimism can be caused by a negative environment. Well, for environment, I really mean people. If you’re in the frequent company of negative people, this has a physiological effect on your brain. You start thinking negatively. So, as difficult as it might be, move away from this negative environment.

4. Create

Optimistic people show more left-side brain activity. With pessimists, there’s more going on in the right side. So, if you can stimulate the left side of your brain, you’ll feel more optimistic. One of the best ways to do this is creative expression. Take up art classes. Or dancing. Or a musical instrument.

5. Become more mindful

Mindfulness is about being focused on the here and now. Being in the moment. Meditation is a great way to focus on the here and now. A friend who is chairman of a couple of major corporations has been a student of Buddhism for about 16 years. He says that one benefit is that it has made him more mindful. Google mindfulness exercises to find things you can do to improve your mindfulness.

So, how about it? Five steps to become as optimistic as Wile E. Coyote – and they don’t come more optimistic than Wile E.

Photo by Chema Photo via Unsplash

  1. says: Thomas Smith

    Excellent article Greg. Check out Dr Benjamin Hardy. I think you will like his material.

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