Power of Optimism

^z 18th September 2023 at 6:47am

The Power of Optimism by Alan Loy McGinnis surfaced again recently, half a dozen years after kind correspondent Lila Das Gupta shared the list of "Twelve Characteristics of Tough-Minded Optimists" from its page xiv. Unsurprisingly, it's a super-cheerful book, full of success stories and suggestions for self-improvement. Alas, it's a bit heavy-handed in its Judeo-Christianity, and tends to cite apocryphal anecdotes that a little research would have soon debunked. Many of the quotes disagree with one another. Maybe that's ok.

And so, adding sub-items from the text of chapters 1, 4, 5, and 8 to the master list:

  • Optimists are seldom surprised by trouble.
    • Think of yourself as a problem solver.
    • Look for multiple options.
    • Anticipate problems.
    • Talk freely about negative feelings.
    • Look for the good in bad situations.
    • Avoid phony pep talks.
  • Optimists look for partial solutions.
  • Optimists believe they have control over their futures.
  • Optimists allow for regular renewal.
    • Attach yourself to hopeful people.
    • Change your intellectual habits.
    • Feed your spiritual side with care.
    • Talk to a young child.
    • Make use of the ancient idea of the Sabbath.
    • Get to know someone new.
  • Optimists interrupt their negative train of thought.
    • Monitor your automatic thoughts.
    • Question whether your automatic thoughts are actually yours.
    • Correct your cognitive distortions.
    • Strive for favorable connotations.
  • Optimists heighten their powers of appreciation.
  • Optimists use their imagination to rehearse success.
  • Optimists are cheerful even when they can't be happy.
    • Begin the day well.
    • Employ the therapy of laughter.
    • Insist on celebrations even during hard times.
    • Employ uplifting music to lift your mood.
    • Take a brisk walk.
  • Optimists believe they have an almost unlimited capacity for stretching.
  • Optimists build lots of love into their lives.
  • Optimists like to swap good news.
  • Optimists accept what cannot be changed.

... and perhaps one of the most important bottom line conclusions is buried at the end of McGinnis's chapter 8:

... When people have a troubled life, it gives them good cause to be pessimistic. On the other hand, research shows that pessimists make a mess of their lives and fail to do the things they could to remedy their situations. So for the person who wants to become more optimistic, the question of cause and effect is really academic. ...

... like the Arnold Bennett comment in his 1923 collection of advice How to Make the Best of Life:

... The trouble about discussing how to make the best of life is that one is forced to make so many excursions into the obvious. The failure to make the best of life is due, as often as not, to the neglect of the conspicuously obvious — to the omission to do some perfectly simple thing which everybody agrees ought to be done, or to the commission of some perilous imprudence which everybody agrees ought to be very carefully avoided. ...

... and Bennett's encouraging words, well worth remembering:

No effort is wasted.

(cf. Optimist Creed (1999-04-16), BennettOnLife (2000-03-19) MoveOn (2007-01-16), SolveTheProblem (2007-05-24), Tough-Minded Optimists (2009-12-22), How to Be an Optimist (2011-08-24), How to Master Any Game (2016-02-18), ...) - ^z - 2016-02-23