Winston Churchill said a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, and an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty. Oscar Wilde said that the basis of optimism is sheer terror. George F. Will said that the nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised. Optimism is what pessimist is not, so let’s look at pessimism first.
Pessimism is now recognized as a strong risk factor for depression, mainly because it has the effect of bringing personal, creative, and professional endeavors to a half and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. A pessimist doesn’t think something will work and either gives up or doesn’t even begin.
Pessimism can be a curse if it makes you give up your goals and dreams. But unfounded optimism, the belief that everything will turn out fine without the necessary effort, has the same effect. Optimism is a wonderful state of mind, but having a slightly cautious understanding of reality can be helpful.
Becoming more optimistic requires you to understand how your thoughts, feelings, and behavior are interrelated and can be reworked to increase optimism. Anyone can learn optimism by, well, just doing it. It’s usually much easier to change behavior than feelings or thoughts. So, act like an optimist until you start feeling like one: Fake it till you make it. Your thoughts and feelings become more optimistic as you behave more optimistically. Again, this kind of learned optimism bears no resemblance whatsoever to the belief that merely wishing something is so will make it so. Your beliefs do influence what happens to you, and true optimism is just as much about action as it is about attitude. It’s not enough to think positively, you also have to work to make positive things happen; and that most likely means working through a thick layer of negativity.
As you work on this negatively, you will get better and better at becoming aware of how a pessimistic sequence of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors may try to undermine your goals. And, subsequently, you will be more easily able to distance or distract yourself from those negative thoughts. Remember throughout this process that pessimistic beliefs are not facts, and you now have the ability to change them.