JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS
 

Learning Optimism

 

By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D

           

           

As we enter the second summer under the onus of COVID-19, each person has their own challenges. There are parents and children returning to school after a year of at-home learning. There are those who are being asked to return to offices part or full time. There are businesses that are short-staffed and health care facilities bursting with patients, stretching personnel to their physical and emotional limits. Where are you in this time of challenges? Like me, I am sure you are needing to dig deeply, polishing old skills and learning new ones.

           

How do you typically respond to obstacles and challenges? How do you interpret people’s behavior and events? Your answers may indicate whether your innate or learned responses are more optimistic or pessimistic. Pessimists tend to attribute events or causes outside of themselves. They often think globally rather than specifically and have no idea of solutions or actions to take.

           

Optimists tend to look at causes relating to each effect. They tend to look specifically and clearly and can then think of actions needed to change the situation. The pessimist is on the road to victimhood and learned helplessness. The optimist feels empowered and hopeful.

           

I am sure most of us can relate to both approaches. Dr. Martin Seligman, influenced by Abraham Maslow and other humanistic psychologists, is the author of six books on this topic from his landmark, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life (1991) to Flourish: A visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being (2011).  Dr. Seligman, along with Ed Diener and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (many books on flow and creativity), have shown in their studies that happiness can be taught and learned.

           

Rumi tells us, “Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise so I am changing myself.” Here are some ways to think differently so that we can change ourselves in response to the world:

  • Only this situation

  • Positive past experiences

  • Temporary

  • I have support

  • Mentor’s example

  • Imagine success

  • Sometimes isn’t forever

  • My effort matters

 

These are all things each of us can do. Take a breath, take the time, re-imagine!

           

We can change the negative or traumatic experiences of the past by recalling any former or present experiences of success, of being encouraged or supported. Then imagine yourself succeeding. A phrase that is helpful is, “If I could imagine (something positive, helpful, etc,), I wonder what it would look like, feel like, be like.” Giving yourself that pathway to a positive outcome can be helpful.

           

Dr. Seligman tells us to, “Use your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something larger than you are.” This reminds me of the powerful advice of Viktor Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning) to find meaning and purpose so we will have hope. Sometimes it may be for someone you care about, a goal for yourself, or a step in changing something in yourself or your environment.

           

The wisdom of Alcoholics Anonymous for sobriety is, “One day at a time.” Sometimes for me, it is one moment at a time. All we ever have is this moment to do with what we choose. I also think it is important to remember that most all accomplishments of value take time. Watching the 2021 Olympics I was so inspired by many athletes, their families, and other support folks who have spent years, often decades, preparing for these competitions.  Many said being there was their accomplishment.

           

I am inspired by the words of a song by Holly Near, a singer, and songwriter,

 

The Rock Will Wear Away

Can we be like drops of water falling on the stone

Splashing, breaking, dispersing in air

Weaker than the stone by far but be aware

That as time goes by the rock will wear away

And the water comes again

 

Hopefully, you and I can take the time and courage to learn or relearn optimism, step by step, and moment by moment as we create a lifetime of happiness.

 

 

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Evolving Magazine

Kansas City

 

Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC is a counselor and educator. She is the author of Life Weaving Education Curriculum that teaches creative, effective holistic problem-solving. For counseling appointments (confidential video or in person sessions), seminars, speaking engagements, or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Relationship Therapy call

816-509-9277 or drjude@heartlandholistic.com; www.heartlandholistic.com

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