Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How Well Can I Argue With Myself?

Over the past few days I read the book Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman. I learned a few interesting things, but one of the main things I got out of it is that both pessimists and optimists have good and bad things happen to them -- only, optimists handle everything better. Optimists are happier, live longer, healthier, less depressed. Who wouldn't want to be an optimist with that line-up?

I also learned that being an optimist doesn't have to mean never having negative thoughts or just responding to the world with blind and foolish positivity. It seems it's all about the way you react to these thoughts and whether you let them consume you. Seligman's advice was to either distract yourself from negativity or dispute it. In other words, it seems you can argue yourself out of being a pessimist through logic. Well, that seems easy enough, right?

I'll admit that I'm most guilty of pessimism when it comes to my writing. Sometimes I'll sit down to write and think things like Well, this will never work. No one will ever want to read this. This is never going to get published. You get the point. Seligman used an example in the book about a woman who was dieting, ate a little junk food, began obsessing over the idea that she'd ruined her diet and then just gave up and ate a tub of ice cream. Okay, I'll admit that I would do something like this, too.

So today's challenge is this: not to banish all self-doubt or negative thoughts, but to dispute them. Every time I think something negative today, I'm going to make myself take a few seconds to argue myself out of it. Can I do it? Can you?


  1. I've heard of this before. Especially the diet thing. Just because you fell off the wagon for a moment, doesn't mean you can't climb back up again.
    I'm wondering though - one of my biggest sources of negativity right now is a co-worker. Without going into detail - lets just say this person is getting on most everyone's nerves in the office and we all wonder how said person has managed to stay employed. How do I look at that with a positive angle? This is one I've been trying to work out on my own for a while now...

  2. I don't really know the situation, but maybe the key is just to stay positive within yourself and your own work? In other words, rather than focusing on her and her negativity try to ignore it (if you can) and think about the things you can achieve. Or at least, that's what I think the book was getting at.

  3. Hmmm....that's a differnt approach, I'll try that! Thanks!