If you have read A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, are you an Eeyore or a Tigger? “Eeyores” are your typical pessimists. Life is one disappointment after another. Positive things are never as good as imagined. Neutral things are worse than expected. Negative things are bad beyond belief. Pessimists typically blame themselves for all negative outcomes – even the ones over which they had no control. They believe negative outcomes will touch all areas of their lives, and will last a long time. The Positive Perspective
“Tiggers” on the other hand are more like your typical optimists. Positive things are great. Neutral things are more than acceptable. Negative things are viewed as bumps in the road of life. Negative outcomes are temporary setbacks because optimists see how situational factors contributed to negative outcomes and they recognize what was their portion of responsibility. Optimists believe they have what it takes to meet and overcome challenges.
Positive psychologist, Dr. Martin Seligman, observes that people who have pessimistic tendencies can develop optimistic viewpoints. Optimists are less prone to depression than pessimists, and will recover more easily from life’s inevitable negative events. They also tend to have better physical health. Jesus gives us every reason to develop optimistic muscles, provided we have fixed our mind’s eye on Him. Jesus has overcome the world. Jesus will be with us when we face “troubles.” And we know that on “that Day”, Christ will return and set all the wrongs to right. Talk about temporary!!!
How can you become less like Eeyore and more like Tigger? The following five steps are a good place to start:
1. Examine your self-talk. While you may have overlearned automatic negative thoughts [ANTS], you do not have to persist with negative thinking. Take every thought captive and examine its content (2 Corinthians 10:5). Are you telling yourself the truth about the matter? Has your pessimism negatively skewed your interpretation of an event?
2. Examine your context. Pessimists blame themselves for everything. Optimists accept appropriate responsibility, but do not accept blame that is not theirs to carry. How did the context or situation contribute to the negative outcome? Were factors in play that you had no control over, nor could you have anticipated them? Recognize these features and let them loosen your vice grip on self-blame. (John 9)
3. Examine your strengths and your limitations. Optimists operate out of an empowerment model. They take a realistic look at their abilities and their limitations. They believe that many ways exist to tackle a challenge and they look for resources to help them. What strengths are you ignoring? What options have you rejected without due consideration? (Romans 12:6-21)
4. Find a coach. If you tend toward pessimism, find someone who is willing to walk beside you to help you “grow” your optimistic muscles. Deeply held negative beliefs about self and the world will not change overnight. You need a mentor, coach, or partner. Do not tackle this challenge on your own. (Mark 3:14b – Jesus called the disciples to “be with him.”)
5. Take a test to find out how optimistic you really are.
To learn more about learned optimism, see the following resources:
Grace focused Optimism
A short article: Learned Optimism: The Cup Half Full Emotional Contributor: Virginia Holeman, Ph.D. Co-Chair (Kentucky), Department of Counseling & Pastoral Care, Asbury Theological Seminary.
Executive editor: Russ Gunsalus
Curator of content: Dave Higle