Susan Dunn, MA Clinical Psychology
One of the most important things you can do for
your health and success is to learn optimism.
High scores in optimism are predictive of a
longer, healthier life, and excellence in
everything from sports to life-insurance sales.
HOW OPTIMISTIC ARE YOU IN YOUR THINKING?
Take this quiz:
1. If someone says youíre in great shape for your
age, which would you reply:
a. Iím just lucky.
b. Thank you, I work at it.
2. If someone asked you how your weekend at your
in-laws was, which would you reply:
a. Terrible, all except for the great dinner we
b. I had a good time despite a few minor
3. Are you:
a. Determined to be perfect in all you are, say
and do and expect of others
b. Willing and able to set realistic goals and
4. When you forget to take the trash out and
realize it on the way to work, do you:
a. Ruin the rest of you day by blowing it all out
b. Instantly forgive yourself, devise a way to
remember next time, and donít let it ruin the rest
of your day
STUDIES INDICATE THAT OPTIMISTS ARE:
∑ Healthier and live longer
∑ Resistant to depression
∑ Likely to achieve their potential
∑ Persistent in the face of adversity
∑ Able to get maximum pleasure from success
because they think they caused it
PESSIMISM, ON THE OTHER HAND:
∑ Lowers your immunity
∑ Makes you more prone to isolation which is a
higher heath risk than smoking
∑ Lowers your EQ
∑ Keeps you from guarding your health or getting
medical advice when needed
∑ Causes more bad events in life
Your health at age 60 will be strongly related
to your optimism/pessimism at age 25
[Source: Martin Seligman, Ph.D. ]
HOW CAN YOU LEARN OPTIMISM?
EQ coaches specialize in teaching you how to learn
this important life skill. It's part of emotional
You canít learn it by memorizing mantras or
carrying around quotes on a 3x5í. It involves
learning new self-talk and practicing it
rigorously until it becomes automatic. After all,
itís ourselves we listen to all day long!
Incidentally, if you think optimists arenít always
in touch with reality, youíre right. Pessimists
are more often right, but optimists accomplish
more, and live longer, healthier and happier
Itís a tempered optimism, cautions Dr. Seligman Ė
one that you choose to use or not.
TIMES TO USE OPTIMISM ARE:
∑ In an achievement situation (sports, when giving
∑ When trying to curb depression
∑ When dealing with a protracted physical health
∑ When trying to lead, inspire, or get elected.
TIMES NOT TO USE OPTIMISM ARE:
∑ When the stakes are very high (i.e., considering
having an affair, day trading)
. When counseling someone in dire straits
[The answers to the quiz Ė the optimist would
choose the second choice in each instance.]