Optimism #3: The ABCs of Becoming Optimistic

2 Jul

“If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” – Lord Kelvin

“Optimism is the tendency to expect the best possible outcome or dwell on the most hopeful aspects of a situation, defined by how we self-talk to frame events:

Bad events are temporary setbacks,

Isolated to particular circumstances and

Can be overcome by effort and abilities”   – Martin Seligman

In any change effort, begin with measurement, in this case of yourself. Consider the ABC model of measurement. An event occurs, is it an Adversity?  Then ask yourself, how have your labeled this event, what is your Belief about it? Finally, what are the Consequences of this event, what is your emotional reaction to it?  Log these, this is your self-measurement tool.

Your change tool will be to modify your self-talk.  Seligman says we need to learn to mentally argue with ourselves – to create reasonable explanations as to why we should change.

Let me share an example: the honking, swearing driver.  For many years my social director mentioned to me I was really swearing at her, as the other driver could certainly not hear me.  This provided motivation.  So I began to count, from 1 to 10, when the situation (Adversity) happened.  This slowed down my emotional reaction and gave me time to think about my explanation (Belief) of other drivers (stupid) and why was I getting so upset (Consequences).

I convinced myself being upset by people I didn’t know was not too smart.  So, I started to deep breathe. This cooled me down emotionally and my brain began to function.  Then I simply repeated my mantra “Don’t let strangers upset you.”  It took many trials, it eventually worked and  generalized to other situations.  Whoopie!

In change plans, start with something simple, learn how to do it and then work gradually toward more difficult issues.  Only rarely do people see me upset.

For an in-depth discussion of how to improve your optimism goto: Beyond IQ and Scroll to Section 4: Let’s begin with optimism.



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