As it turns out, the stories we tell ourselves about why bad things happen really do affect what happens next and how we react to it.
Optimism and pessimism are defined as a tendency to think about what causes adversity in our lives. However, pessimism has the added ability of making us feel powerless to change. In other words – How we explain the causes of our problems plays an important role in determining how we respond to them.
Pessimism has the tendency to attribute the causes of adversity internally, such as self-blame. That negative “self talk” creates more disadvantage and hampers opportunities to respond to adversity in positive ways. By “feeding” our limitations, we channel more power and opportunity to excuses. Pessimists are consequently at an increased risk for losing their motivation. At this point, some pessimists stop trying. Self-defeating views does indeed promote yet more defeat.
But, some pessimists use “failure is a reality, not a guarantee” to motivate themselves into action. Those who acknowledge the possibility of failure without discouraging the effort necessary to prevent it, can win over the optimist. Among these people, there is no difference in motivation or performance between optimists and the prepared pessimists.
So, when overt optimism is not an available option, the constructive approach may be to re-examine the causes (or truth) of negative situation. Simple positive self talk may not be sufficient or as effective when the odds are against you. The new challenge becomes how to develop a realistic strategy to impact a negative situation without surrendering a sense of power and control over it.
For example, such training was found to increase the persistence with which novice golfers attempted to improve their game. Also, attributing positive results to ability and negative results to the lack of effort was found to significantly improve subsequent performance among professional athletes.
How we explain the causes of our problems plays an important role in determining how we respond to them. The stories we tell ourselves about why bad things happen really can affect what happens next.
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