“[…] Pessimists can learn the skills of optimism and permanently improve the quality of their lives.” – Martin Seligman. Ph.D.
Dr. Seligman describes several ways to achieve an optimistic lifestyle in his book, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. This blog will focus on the first step he mentions, which is a focus on targeting our negative beliefs.
To begin, our brains our wired to rely on schemas when we are faced with challenges. Schemas are previously organized thoughts and beliefs that our brain relies on in order to make quick decisions. For a pessimist, a schema is often negative. Therefore, negative and pessimistic thoughts are heavily influenced. Seligman notes that the first step is to tackle our beliefs.
In order to explore this notion further, we would evaluate how those beliefs play a role in our day to day thoughts and interactions. This can be done by identifying what Seligman calls identifying the Adversity, Belief, and Consequences.
Let’s briefly go over what these elements are and what they could represent:
Adversity: The situation that causes a challenge or an obstacle.
Belief: The thought/s surrounding the adversity and the individuals associated.
Consequences: The outcome of how you applied your belief to the adversity.
Pessimistic vs. Optimistic The Pessimist
The OptimistAdversity: You and your best friend have a fight.Adversity: You and your best friend have a fight.Belief: You think, “I do not have any real friends.”Belief: You think, “He/She is in a terrible mood.”Consequences: You feel depressed for the rest of the day.Consequences: You check-in with your friend a few hours later.
As a result, there is a significant difference in the consequences of our beliefs. When was the last time you evaluated your beliefs? Which mentality are you more prone to?
Today is an excellent opportunity to assess which camp you resonate most with. You can track your adversities, beliefs, and consequences with just a pencil and notebook paper. Get started today! My next blog will focus on ways to manage pessimistic beliefs.
For questions or if you are seeking support in improving your perspective on life, please contact the Amy Wine Counseling Center at (832) 421-8714.