Learned optimism: how to cultivate a talent for positive thinking - Deepstash
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Learned optimism

Learned optimism is the concept that a positive mindset can be cultivated, even in those with pessimistic tendencies. Heavily influenced by psychologist Martin Seligman, learned optimism is part of the positive psychology movement.

By learning how to cultivate positivity in everyday life, you can improve your productivity and your mental health.


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The 3 P’s of pessimism

  • Permanence. A pessimist may ruminate during a negative time in their life and see the darkness as permanent.
  • Pervasiveness. The pervasiveness of pessimism leads a pessimist to believe that failure at work is evidence of, or will lead to, failure in all other aspects of life.
  • Personalization. A pessimist will see their successes as being due to something external to them, and disappointments as being solely their own responsibility.


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The benefits of learned optimism

  • Learned optimism leads to higher motivation. With more motivation to succeed, optimists exert more effort to guarantee achievement, in contrast with pessimists who are more likely to give up.
  • Optimism can predict good health, better career success, and superior social relations.
  • An optimists’ expectation of positive outcomes leads to upbeat feelings. Conversely, when pessimists expect a poor outcome, it can cause negative feelings including anxiety, anger, or sadness.


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How to learn optimism

How to learn optimism

The ABCDE approach to go from learned helplessness to learned optimism:

  • Adversity. Start by describing a recent experience of adversity.
  • Belief. Then, write down all the thoughts running through your mind while thinking about this adverse experience.
  • Consequence. Now, consider the impact of these beliefs on your feelings and on your behaviour.
  • Disputation. It’s time to put your beliefs into perspective.
  • Energization: Use the newfound energy from the disputation step to cultivate a more positive outlook on the challenge you are facing.


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