Darryl Hartwick, June 3 2020

To be enjoyed, or endured

            “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 nature trail.  

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?

The choice 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 thinking habits.

However, after 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 thinking.

“Pessimism 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 problem?

Is your daily life something to be endured, or 24 hours to be enjoyed?

Will you 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.

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Darryl Hartwick

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