Emotional Forecast: Excellent
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.” ~ Charles R. Swindoll
Attitude, prerogative, outlook… these are all different words saying the same thing. The point I want to make is that your outlook is 100% within your control, but knowing this and trying to constantly implement this is at times difficult, perhaps even arduous. Sometimes we fall prey to self-sabotage, an aspect of our human nature that we ALL know well, so well in fact that perhaps we don’t want to admit the extent to which we do know it.
Here is the conundrum – what makes us do things we know aren’t good for us? Often it’s a battle that occurs in our heads between “I want” and “I shouldn’t”, between “I’m in charge” and “I can’t control this”, between “eat the cake now” and “start the diet again tomorrow”. Why can’t we stop something even when we know better?
Like everything in life, it begins with a thought, a belief, or an idea, and there are consequences to our thoughts. Your attitude affects the outcome of your life.
There is a section from the Zohar which says, “come and behold, the lower world is always ready to receive and is called a precious stone. The upper world gives it, according to its state.” Right, potentially confusing, let’s clarify. At the core of this section, the Zohar is saying that we draw what we are. When it refers to “state”, it is in fact referring to consciousness, and by our consciousness alone, we invite that energy into our lives. When we apply this to a thought, negative or positive; a feeling, happy or sad; or an outlook, pessimistic or optimistic, it makes sense to say that our outlook will correspond to what happens to us and similarly what happens to us corresponds with our outlook. The same idea is expressed succinctly by the Bal Shem Tov, a famous kabbalist, who said “we think we are sad because things don’t go our way, when in reality things don’t go our way because we are sad.”
Life as a Pessimist 101, here we go. When we look at what pessimism actually is and by dictionary definition:
Pes·si·mism noun ˈpe-sə-ˌmi-zəm also ˈpe-zə-from the Latin pessimus (worst) is the inclination to emphasize adverse aspects, conditions, and possibilities or to expect the worst possible outcome.
Suffice it to say that a pessimist is someone who will tend to believe that bad events will last a very long time, that it was probably their fault, and ultimately will undermine everything that they do; as opposed to an optimist, who has a contrary understanding and grasp about misfortune. An optimist believes that defeat is a temporary setback, its causes are confined to this one case, and that it is absolutely not their fault. Optimists are unfazed by defeat. Confronted by a bad situation, they perceive it as a challenge and they try harder.
According to studies, pessimists give up more easily, get depressed more often, and are set up for a number of physical ailments, from the common cold, to heart disease, to immune disorders, as opposed to optimists, who purportedly do better in school and in work, their health is unusually good, and they live longer and happier lives. In a recent eight year study at the University of Pittsburgh, they found that women who are optimistic outlived dour ones. The study of pessimism even has parallels with the study of depression. Psychologists trace pessimistic attitudes to emotional pain or even biology. Aaron Beck goes so far as to argue that depression is due to unrealistic negative views about the world. Right, well, this all sounds rather terrifying, which is absolutely not my point.
I always like to give hard facts, not to make you scared, but to give you the impetus to actually do something about it. Remember; a thought is only a thought, and the thought can be changed. It’s a powerful idea, a thought is only a thought, it’s as strong as we let it be, it’s as weak as we let it be, and mostly, and more importantly, it can be changed.
Most people assume physical health is a wholly physical matter, determined by constitution, healthy habits, and avoiding germs. Your constitution is a result of your genetics, which is then enhanced by good eating habits, vigorous exercise, wearing seatbelts, avoiding bad cholesterol, and avoiding germs (hand sanitizer sales have sky rocketed in the last five years!). We can surmise that when our health fails, it must be because we had a weak constitution, or poor health habits, or came across many germs. But this conventional view omits one key determining factor, which is our cognitions, our thoughts, of which we have greater control than we give credit.
The way we think about our health, in fact, changes our health. Let’s even take it a step further. The way we think about our lives, affects our lives. The way we think, what we think we deserve, affects what comes to us, and if something works in one area you can’t pick and choose if it relates to our health, and it relates to our life, and it relates to what comes to us. What we think we deserve affects what comes to us.
In essence, your psychology, namely your personality or your outlook on life, can be just as important to your wellbeing as exercising and eating right.
Now that’s great news for the gurus and the motivational speakers, but what about the rest of us who aren’t always so chipper, what do we do? Especially when we do acknowledge that we sometimes live in the shadow of pessimism (perhaps more than we realize), maybe throughout our day there are small aspects of it sprinkled about, through our speech, through our actions; we understand that pessimism can have a profound influence in our lives and not in the desired effect. But if something doesn’t serve you, change it! You can.
Here are three ways to dispel your pessimism, and each of these can be used at different times for different situations:
1. Dispute your beliefs – give them an argument.
For example; a relationship when it begins to sour – when arguments become more frequent – we have a choice. If we believe, “Right! That’s it, it’s turned a little bit bad, there is nothing I can do about it, it’s going to end soon”, then that decision, that very belief will affect the outcome. If we believe there is nothing we can do, we walk away from trying for the relationship, and of course, that’s the end of it. But if we think there is something that we can do about it, our approach would be different, and therefore, the outcome would be different. Chances are you would stay together, you would work through it. Your belief affects the overall outcome. Remember whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.
2. Separation – create space between you and your beliefs.
Your beliefs are just beliefs. They are not necessarily a fact. Our belief systems are learned from the time when we were very little children, and we move through life creating experiences that support that belief. Wherever you find yourself in your life, your mind, your feelings and thoughts about yourself and others, at some point you learned or created that belief and feeling. You have the power to unlearn them, to change them and grow.
3. Don’t fight your thoughts – acknowledge them and go beyond.
Very often, when people have a negative thought, we tend to obsess about it, all day long, “I had this thought, I had this thought…” and we fight it, we’re at odds with it, with ourselves. That’s not the point, you don’t want to fight the negative thoughts, you simply want to acknowledge them. You’re not denying them, you’re saying “okay, I hear you”, now this is going to sound a little weird, but I promise you it works, I’ve done it, when you say “I hear you, I acknowledge that you’re there, but I’m not going to give you any energy”. That’s it. You have said thank you, you have put the negative thought over there, and you literally walk away from it.
Just remember, “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” ~ Jimmy Dean.
1. Do you think the glass is half full or half empty?
2. What was the last thing you did that you knew was “bad” for you?
3. How could you have done it differently?