(In construction, but you can decide to follow the elements below)

Optimism, a necessary ingredient to happiness
First, be clear on what it is
Developing realistic optimism
The explanatory styles from the different viewpoints
Resource for learning optimism
A few good insights
How does an optimist communicate: examples


Without optimism, there is excess negativity, which squashes any chance of  happiness.   Negativity is the addition of an untruth to what is actually true so that it creates an underlying current of fear, and its result, discomfort and/or emotional pain.   Negativity is a potent toxin, not to be allowed if one is to achieve happiness, not to be tolerated at all if one wants to have a good life.  Without negativity, it is very possible and very likely that you can, in fact, have a great life. 

Install optimism in your life, as it will determine the quality of your life!


The best insight I've seen into what optimism is:.

"Optimism isn't about denying reality; it's about creating a better reality than you're facing...  The Intelligent Optimist knows a half-empty glass is also half-full.  And she knows more can be gained by focusing on what she has than by focusing on what she's missing.  You learn to become optimistic by concentrating on things that give you a sense of satisfaction, and you  remain an optimist by feeding those things to make them grow.  Intelligent Optimists know that for every problem there is (at least the beginning of) a solution, and that the search for that solution can be inspirational in itself.  At the same time, they're not afraid of negative thoughts, which they realize help them stay realistic."  
         Jurriaan Kamp, In Praise Of Intelligent Optimists, ODE Magazine, Jan/Feb
         2009 (A recommended magazine for its intelligent optimism!)  Italics and
         underlining are mine.

Optimism does not depend on circumstances, as you can read in Optimism - Helen Keller.  One can't help but make the choice to be an optimist after reading this.

Optimism:  The practice of "taking the most hopeful or cheerful view of matters."

It is not something you are born with.  It is a viewpoint you learn and adapt to.  It is one of the "skills" you can, and should, learn.

Intelligence:  Perception, discernment; use of the faculty of reason in solving problems, directing conduct, etc. effectively.

As you can see it is not about just seeing something in a hopeful way, but it is about developing one's ability to discern what is the most positively creative way to approach the matters of life, operating from the faculty of reason and being careful to apply it.  

Take the Optimism Test on Martin Seligman's site.  Learn to shift your attitude to fit the highest of the optimism test factors!  They are just as credible (actually more) than the less optimistic and are definitely much more beneficial to the human psyche.

It is intelligent to be optimistic, period. 


The truth is that things overwhelmingly turn out just fine.  And the ratio of things happening that are good increases by just observing what is so - meaning that it is reduced, drastically, by our commentary about what is happening, which is determined by the beliefs that create an "ain't it awful" story about what is happening. 

Separating Out The Stories

When we separate out what is happening from our erroneous  "made-ups" ("stories") about what is happening, and drop the stories, we are only left with what is true and the question of "what's next?".   Following the practice of distinguishing a story from what is happening is a major factor in eliminating the negative points of view that get in the way of the truth and of optimism.  To learn this and practice it, go to Stories Vs. Non-Stories and the practice of "what actually happened", deleting the negative bias stories. 

Distinguishing What Is True From What Is Not True

Until one goes through this process, one is left with the negative and untrue bias of our primitive warning system and a set of old files pulled up from the brain which contain erroneous information. 

Optimism is not possible without removing the untrue biases.  Many people have made the mistake of trying to impose "positive thinking" on top of one's strong beliefs in the negative - and they've gotten poor results - because that strategy is unworkable!  Optimism is not denial of what is true or creating some greater untruth that is positive.  It is about seeing what is true and knowing that things actually do turn out well most of the time if we don't interfere negatively with them.

Read Truth and learn to use The Truth Test.  

Getting Out Of The Biggest Killer Viewpoint

The biggest killer is the outmoded, even childish way of dealing with the world that is also pervasive  in cultures throughout the world, the viewpoint of:  right/wrong, good/bad, shame, guilt, motivation by punishment.   Seeing the "untruth", the "unreality" of it, leaves one with only "workability" as the criterion for living life - and removes so many of the negatives that create unhappiness and needless suffering.  Read The Reasoning For No-Blame

Shifting From The Victim To The Adult

A pessimist will often believe that he/she cannot do anything about what happens, cannot respond to create the best from an undesired outcome, and that he/she is "powerless" in a sense.  They are operating from an untruth that needs to be removed before the optimistic viewpoint can be achieved. 

Indeed, this shift is probably the #1 most important cause of shifting from a not so good life to a great life.  Fully making the shift, from deciding to make it all the way over to the logical conclusions based on it, will create not only optimism but will have one living in a state of Fearlessness.   As extreme as fearlessness sounds it is relatively straightforward to achieve.  

Seeing Reality For What It is

Reality and truth are the same.  Accepting reality as it is is a necessary ingredient to one's freedom from resistance and futile efforts.  The impact is so great that it indeed is what removes suffering and struggle from one's life, per The Buddha.  I agree, based on all of my studies. 

Read Accepting Reality and master it, as it is one of the keys to eliminating unhappiness and to being more able to have greater Power In Life


In the psychological literature, much time is spent urging one to shift from the pessimistic explanatory style to the optimistic explanatory style. An "explanatory style" is the way we explain how somethingg came about and who one is in relationship to that.   It is helpful to attempt to change explanatory style, but I think that the explanatory style is a symptom more that a cause and that the solution to a problem lies in correcting the cause.  The causes of the explanatory styles are the "viewpoints" specificied above; in other words, the viewpoints are what create the explanatory style.   (See Cause And Effect as it relates to Problem Solving.)

Briefly, these are the differences: (checkmark those you employ.)

                                     Explanatory Style Related to Setbacks

                       The Optimist Viewpoint                    The Pessimist Viewpoint

Presumption:    Of personal power                           Of personal helplessness

Permanence:    Are temporary setbacks                    Will last a long time
Universality:     Isolated to particular circumstances    Undermine everything I do   

Solvability:       Can be overcome by effort/abilities    Are my fault 

One of the biggest errors in perception lies in the belief that there is permanence and unchangeability in states of being and feeling.  In Buddhism, this is pointed out as the source of our unhappiness and as one of the greatest errors in thinking, which is certainly true! 



Learned Optimism, Martin Seligman
    Link to an outline summary


Intelligent Optimism Online - A few clarifiers.


Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”


An optimist uses powerful languaging that is precise and accurate and generative of a good future.  See Powerful Languaging.

One Example

Received from a number of sources by a number of people, passing this on.  I left it intact, as is, except I've bolded phrases I thought were worthy of special note; this will also permit you to quickly scan for a good overview:

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year!

One of my clients passed along a beautifully written, inspirational New Year's letter that I wanted to share with you all. (He runs an advertising firm, the Scott Group, to which he refers a couple of times)

I think this was meant for his clients and friends, but I've received it from two sources because it's so universally poignant. I hope you enjoy it too.

January 1, 2009 – A Test for Optimism

Maybe it’s the fact that I write these New Years greetings during my favorite two weeks of the year – a rare time of peace and reflection that offers an unfettered perspective as I wind down the prior year and prepare for the next.

Or perhaps it is just a continuing belief that failure is never an option.
Regardless of the reason…and at the risk of coming across a little bit Pollyanna…I can’t help but look ahead to the upcoming year with a sense of optimism. Not a popular belief, to be sure, but in spite of all the negative news, I remain convinced that 2009 has the potential to be the beginning of a new - and brighter - future.

It could be the hope brought upon by a new leadership under Barack Obama. Or maybe the euphoria that January 20th finally marks an end to the eight-year ‘Reign of Error’ (as Robin Williams so aptly phrased it recently). Come to think of it, it might just be the after-glow of a joyous holiday blessed with the addition of a new Golden Retriever puppy.

In any case, it is not that I believe optimism is the great panacea…but like chicken soup, well, it couldn’t hurt. Even in the midst of adversity, optimism that results from steadfast determination can prevail. Colin Powell once said, “Sustained optimism is a force multiplier.” To wit, 2009 will be a test of that resolve…and, indeed, of our resistance to slip into the negativity that pessimism perpetuates. Our lives are what we make them, and similarly, the economy has the potential to be what we make it as well.

The truth is, consumer behavior can be the cause of economic shifts as much as the result.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not advocating a return to unabashed spending or the over-leveraging of inflated housing values as if one’s home had somehow transformed into a self-perpetuated automatic teller machine. There is a fine line between spending foolishly and living optimistically. But unless we shift our beliefs and concomitant financial decisions to reflect a sense of optimism…I fear many of the pundits who predict pessimism for 2009 may win out.

Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Let’s hear it for the optimist.

I was recently flattered to be among a select few to receive an advance copy of a new book – Luck by Design…written by a former client (CMO of Men’s Wearhouse), a current colleague and a very good friend, Richie Goldman. Richie believes that we make our own luck, and I agree. In the twelve years since founding The Scott Group, I’ve been blessed by good fortune…perhaps by design, perhaps as further evidence that what goes around actually does come around.

And for what it’s worth, our financial horizon for the first quarter of 2009 appears surprisingly strong. Enhanced by an on-going commitment to a business relationship with Peter Kay and I-86 ( and helped by clients that recognize the potential of that effort, we’re gearing up for assignments from Hershey’s, H&R Block and Hampton Inns. All of which fuels my optimism, and hopefully impacts yours as well.

So to those who share in the courage to embrace optimism, I wish you the strength of conviction to believe you will benefit from your choice…regardless of how you define that benefit. To have the faith that optimism is important, not just as a means to an end, but as an end in itself.

And to those who have helped - and continue to help - The Scott Group over the twelve years since its inception, I want to express my heartfelt thanks and unqualified gratitude for your advice, your support and your guidance. My wish for the New Year is to spread the infectiousness that optimism can produce, and to be equally grateful for the results it may bring. I continue to be humbled by the strategic challenges we face and gratified by the accomplishments our clients achieve as a result. And I carry on my pledge to never take success for granted, nor ever consider failure as an option.

I hope this New Year provides you the opportunity to deny pessimism at every turn, and to share the good fortune you find with those less fortunate. It is with tremendous gratitude that I send you fond wishes for a joyous New Year filled with good health, a renewed sense of hope, a positive outlook, and more time to spend with loved ones.