“Things are neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so.” – William Shakespeare
Many of our
attitudes and beliefs are shaped by the lens we use to view our world. Here is
a classic example: You are in the middle of a busy “working from home day” when
your family invites you to take a break, and join them a 40-minute hike on a nearby
Do you agree
to join the group, viewing it as an opportunity to by re-energized by an enjoyable
activity that enhances your well-being? Or, do you choose to look at the hike
as nothing more than a time-wasting slog through a mosquito-infested forest that
is to be endured before you get back to your important work?
is yours to make.
In his book Learned
Optimism, psychologist Martin Seligman writes that our worldview lenses are
forged by what he coins as our “explanatory style”. How we view our place in the world stems
directly from the explanatory style we develop over time in our childhood and
adolescent years. It’s the foundation of either optimistic, or pessimistic
a quarter century of study, Dr. Seligman found that optimism is something that
can be learned, so that individuals are able to challenge pessimistic ways of looking
at life’s challenges and setbacks. Seligman says that does not mean employing
unjustified positivity, but instead developing a habit of non-negative
has a role to play, both in society at large and in our own lives; we must
have the courage to ensure pessimism when its perspective is valuable. What we
want is not blind optimism, but flexible optimism – optimism with its eyes wide
open. We must be able to use pessimism’s keen sense of reality when we need it,
but without having to dwell in its dark shadows,” says Seligman in his book.
So, are you
going to look at your next challenge or setback as an opportunity, or an insurmountable
daily life something to be endured, or 24 hours to be enjoyed?
choose learned optimism, or learned helplessness?
The choice is yours to make.
Darryl Hartwick is a journalist, broadcaster, and post-secondary educator who has a passion for interviewing and storytelling.