November 30, 2012

Optimism can be a learned behavior. Here’s how.

It’s time to throw your pessimistic thinking style to the curb.

In his book Learned Optimism, Martin Seligman discusses how a pessimistic thinking style is learned and how cognitive behavior therapy can be employed to teach people how to become optimistic thinkers. His approach is called “The ABCDE Method of Learned Optimism.”

How to be happyHere are the five steps to change your way of thinking:

Adversity: Define the problem.

Belief: Define the belief system that is interpreting that adversity.

Consequences: Define the consequences arising from the adversity and the (in)action.

Disputation: Argue the core belief, and effectively dispute the belief that follows the adversity.

Energization: Use the positive feelings that occur after the negative thoughts have been changed.

Here is Seligman’s approach in action:

Adversity: I didn’t finish a work project by the deadline my boss assigned me, which to I agreed.

Belief: I have been and always will be a procrastinator who can’t finish what I started.

Consequences: I shouldn’t have even taken this project on. From now on, I won’t set my goals as high that way I won’t disappoint my boss when I can’t meet them.

Disputation: But wait! Sometimes things get in the way and deadlines get missed. Instead of working on this project yesterday, I mentored one of the company’s interns and was able to have a positive impact on that relationship. If my boss had wanted to make sure I was focusing on the project, he would have said something yesterday.

Energization: I’ll speak with my boss about the project and get his take on what my priorities should be. If he wanted the project first, I’ll work with him on finishing it. If he is fine with me taking on mentoring the intern, I’ll reschedule the deadline for the project. It is exciting to be working with an up-and-coming employee!

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