Optimism can be developed by using the right explanatory style – especially of adverse events. Furthermore, a simple technique of responding to adversity will greatly improve the level of positivity and optimism you experience.
Firstly, to develop more optimism adopt an approach that (a) that is less“It’s me”, and more “things happen, everything is not within my control or even my responsibility”), (b) describes any bad event not as “It’s forever”, but more “It’s only temporary, a passing phase”), and (c) describe bad events not as “It’s everything”, but more of “It’s this specific thing.
Explanatory style hints at what to focus on to become more optimistic. It also requires that we tune in to our internal dialogue. What do you say to yourself when you encounter difficulties? Whatever your internal dialogue is you can improve it by using a simple technique – ABCDE. Let me explain:
1. Adversity – Describe the event that can be considered adverse or bad. For example, ten people said no to my offer.
2. Belief – Describe your belief about the event. For example, “I am a pathetic and idiotic salesperson. No-one likes my product. My product will never be popular or saleable.”
3. Consequences – Describe the consequences if you hold to this belief. What will the future (immediate or long term) look like? For example, “Making a sales call is a waste of time. I can just as well sit in the office and wait for the time to pass. Eventually I will be fired, but what can I do? I did not make myself and I cannot change the product or the customers. I am quite helpless.” By now most of us would be fairly down and depressed.
The above three is about focusing on and identifying your explanation. The following two is about changing it.
4. Dispute – Start disputing the belief you hold by considering the:
a. Evidence – what evidence is there for the belief I hold? The cold hard facts. For example, “I only saw 10 people, there are thousands more, so 10 is hardly representative. Many of them were friendly and supportive.”
b. Alternatives – what alternatives are there to the belief I hold? For example, “I struck the wrong people, I may have made a few mistakes in some cases but overall I probably did well. People like the product but not to buy. Some may already have something similar.”
c. Implications – What are the implications for me and my company if I continue to hold these beliefs? Is it really as bad as I make it to be? For example “ I can be reassigned to another product line or focus on the other products I have to sell. I can reassess and refocus on a different target market. I can change how I present the product to appeal to different markets/customers.”
d. Usefulness – How useful are these beliefs, do they promote my welfare and interest or do they run contrary to my own interests? For example, “These beliefs are totally useless in that they only make me feel helpless and can even start a process whereby I will self-destruct.”
5. Energize – Observe how you are energized as you deal with each issue in the above manner (ABCD). No example is needed here. This is the result of implementing all the previous suggestions.
Develop a habit of using the ABCDE technique, and create a more optimistic outlook across the three key elements that determine your optimism, namely how personal, permanent and pervasive (universal) you view bad events.