I have a personal story for you about optimism and pessimism. On my recent trip to Los Angeles, things didn’t work out the way I had hoped, so Life gave me a big choice to be angry or to make the best of it.
The LA story is below, but first some helpful framework:
I just finished the book Learned Optimism by Dr. Martin Seligman, and I was surprised to learn that optimistic people, those who find the good no matter what the challenges, share these benefits:
- Optimists have better immune systems
- Optimists win at sports more than pessimists, even when skills are equal
- Optimists tend to be healthier because they are more active
- Optimistic people have more friendships and better social networks
- Optimistic people have less depression and get out of it quicker
- Optimistic people pass tests in school and tend to graduate on time
How do we become more optimistic, if we have the natural tendency to complain about life and feel helpless?
We need to change our “explanatory style,” or how we tell the story about what happened to us. Optimists and pessimists explain “why bad things happen to good people” very differently.
Pessimists say, “That always happens to me,” and “I can’t do anything about it.” Worst, pessimists say, “It’s all my fault.”
Optimists say, “That was a one-time event,” and “Adversity is temporary; I can overcome this challenge.” Last, optimists say, “There must be some gift hidden in this misfortune; I believe I am guided and I can find the best way forward.”
I’ll give you a recent example of a difficult event in my own life: I had planned a trip to Los Angeles about six months ago, and my contact there was enthusiastic, saying I could get onto TV and radio, and I could even do a live event in front of an audience. Yay!
I was super-excited to break into that market, especially as I’m originally from the US. I imagined being able to travel home on a regular basis, working worldwide, and bringing lots of new members into my women’s coaching group, the Seeker Sisters.
Well, none of that happened!
My contact had too much to do and didn’t organize any TV or radio for my visit, and we even had to cancel the live event! By the time I knew this, I had already landed in LA, and I was supposed to be there for three days, but now with nothing to do!
At first I sat in my hotel room and sulked. My body responded to my negativity and caught a bad cold with a loud, obnoxious cough, “barking” about how much effort I’d put in, how much money I’d spent, and for what?
Then I had a revelation that this was a gift, and it was time to unwrap it. I didn’t know LA at all, and I suddenly had a chance to explore a foreign city on my own, which is one of my FAVORITE things to do in life. What an opportunity! So I put on my tennis shoes and hit the streets. My cough immediatly cleared up!
So much to see. I walked all the neighborhoods: Koreatown, Little Tokyo, Thai Town, West Hollywood, Santa Monica. I saw the beach, the downtown, and the bright lights. I ate a gluten-free waffle 😀 I climbed to the top of the City Hall for a (free) beautiful view of the whole city. And what did it cost? $7 for an all-day Metro pass, plus some delicious food. And very sore feet at the end of the day! (My steps monitor on my phone said I’d put in 25,000 steps!)
Here was a moment of epiphany: I hiked up and down Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, looking at the stars in the sidewalk with the names of famous actors, directors, and musicians. Something struck me – although I grew up watching lots of movies and TV, I didn’t recognize many of the names. Like this one:
Who was Milton Cross? Famous enough to have a star, but now? Gone. Life is short. Too short to complain about little things. Too short to blame myself or others for misfortunes.
Some things don’t work out despite our best intentions. I could have held a grudge against my contact person, but instead I texted her and wished her well. As Don Miguel Ruiz’s “four agreements” recommend: never take anything personally!
And when I got back to South Africa, she reached out and gave me a lead for a new radio show, which happened: listen to On the Couch with Dr. Michelle Cohen on LA Talk Radio
Optimists live longer and happier lives. Will you join me in becoming more and more optimistic every day?
If you’d like to talk with your angels about how to get through old anger, old grudges, and negativity about things currently happening in your life, please reply to this email and set up an appointment. Your angels and guides know who you are and what’s been happening with you. They understand, and they want to shift you into the right direction.