Many of us are familiar with the famous phrase, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.” While the phrase (and song lyric) is quite catchy, one can’t help but wonder if it is truly that simple. Could something easy as accentuating the positive lead to success in our everyday lives? How do we go about eliminating the negative?
From as far back as I can remember, I have been a natural pessimist. It has always been my nature to expect difficult times, and worst case scenarios. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a pessimist is, ” a person who tends to see the worst aspects of things, or thinks that the worst will happen in various situations.” A natural pessimist usually has negative thoughts towards most circumstances. For many, pessimistic thinking is often a combination of life experiences and learned behaviors. One of the most frustrating challenges of being a natural pessimist is feeling that you cannot change. You feel as if your daily life has consumed itself with nothing but negative thoughts. Years of learning and self-improvement have taught me one thing. There are some things about me that I simply cannot change. No matter how hard I try to get away, the natural pessimist in me will always be there, lurking around the corner. It has become a large part of who I am and often affects my decisions. While this fact may be discouraging to some, research shows that there may be a benefit to this “glass half empty” mentality.
In a series of studies performed by psychologists Nancy Cantor and Judy Norem, pessimists and optimists were evaluated on verbal and analytical reasoning tasks. While most would assume the optimists scored better (due to their positive thinking and high confidence), it was discovered that pessimists performed no worse than their optimistic peers. Also, researchers found that the pessimist person tended to be more rational and less disappointed.
In her book, The Positive Power of Negative Thinking Norem states, “At first I asked how these people were able to do so well despite their pessimism…..Before long I realized they were doing well because of their pessimism….negative thinking transformed anxiety into actions.” What does this mean for the natural pessimist? It means yes, there is finally a way to alter your pessimism. While you may never be able to change your thought process completely, you can change your reaction. You do this by allowing your negative thoughts to produce positive results! For example, let’s say you have the opportunity to apply for a promotion within your company. A person who is naturally pessimistic would probably think of all of the reasons that they should not apply. “I don’t have all of the training”, or “I don’t even think my boss likes me.” While both the expectations and the anxious behaviors are negative, the action itself does not have to be. Instead, a natural pessimist should use this thought to work even harder. They increase their chances of getting the promotion by working smarter and communication more. Turning a negative into a positive is the key to turning a negative thought into a positive action! To succeed in the world of natural pessimism you must use your perceptions to motivate instead of hinder. While it is perfectly healthy to improve your thoughts and habits, in some situations it is best to remain just as we are. A negative thinker does not have to be a negative doer! There is a way that we can all accentuate our positive by building on our negative! Push hard and stay motivated!
Written by: Michaela Phelps, Staff Writer, #mygirlsquad
Norem Julie, K. Cantory, Nancy. (1986) Defensive pessimism; Harnessing anxiety as motivation; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; Vol 51(6); 1208-1217. http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1987-13154-001
“Pessimist” [Def.1] Oxford Dictionary Online, Retrieved May 21, 2016, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/pessimist
Hofman-Reitz, Birgit; Released filed with Shutterstock, Inc; Retrieved on May 21, 2016; Female Afro American Say No. http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-127975769/stock-photo-female-afro-american-say-no-isolated-on-white-background.html?utm_source=77643&utm_campaign=Idee%20Inc.&irgwc=1&utm_medium=Affiliate&tpl=77643-108110
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