Can you learn to cultivate a positive perspective? Can that help your overcome setbacks in life?

According to Martin Seligman, the founding father of Positive Psychology, the school of Psychology, which focuses on the positive aspects of human behaviour and characteristics, we can create a positive perspective of life to enhance our well-being (psychological and physical).

Intentionally believing that one will experience good outcomes in life is called Optimism. Owing to the uncertainties of life, both personally and professionally, it is safe to say that we will inevitably face setbacks and challenges. Even during setbacks and challenging times, Optimism can play a role in how we explain them, which will greatly influence our response to such situations. One can either bounce back from it or yield to it.

How does a simple belief that everything will work out, in the end, help us be Resilient and overcome challenges and setbacks?

  • In crisis situations, we often feel helpless. Optimism reduces this sense of helplessness by helping us take constructive actions. Optimists often consider being in control of the situation rather than the situation being in control of them.
  • Optimists are more likely to address situations proactively, therefore, protecting themselves from the adverse impacts of stressful situations.
  • Optimists may motivate others to look at the positive outcome of situations, which serves as an additional support resource for them as well, where they realize that they are not alone in the situation.
  • Being optimistic also allows one to segregate challenges or difficulties into compartments where that particular situation does not affect other aspects of their professional and personal life.

As research has found that only 25% of our optimism or pessimism is hereditary, we can clearly take steps to develop it. How do we develop this positive outlook?

  • Take time to understand how you think about negative situations in your life. Do you feel they are temporary, or will they last a long-time? Will it permeate to different aspects of your life, or will it be restricted to that situation only?
  • Identify your locus of control. Do you give yourself due credit for success or attribute it completely to external factors?
    Intentionally think about the best-case scenario and how you can reach there.
  • Zoom out from the situation and reflect, will the situation still seem so invincible in the near future?

While having a positive outlook in all situations seems appealing, this may lead to denying the significance and seriousness associated and may deter one from taking constructive actions. This is Blind Optimism, wherein individuals are likely to rely heavily on having a positive outlook and may ignore or gloss over the risks involved.

Even the darkest night will end, and the sun will rise.”

― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables