Going the distance

Be open to solutions and silver linings

By Edward T. Creagan, M.D. April 17, 2013

When I talk about being optimistic, what do I mean? I don't mean that you should pretend everything is great when it's not. Nor do I mean that you should ignore hard truths.

Rather I see optimism as a way of coping with life. Optimism leads us to look for solutions and silver linings when hardship strikes.

In his book on learned optimism, Dr. Martin Seligman describes characteristics of optimistic people. At the risk of oversimplifying, here are a few of them:

  • When optimists have a setback, they confine it to the specific event and don't allow it to contaminate every aspect of their life. For example, if optimists get lost while trying to read a map, they may feel frustrated because they're poor map-readers. But they don't take it as a sign that they're inadequate in all aspects of life.
  • Optimists don't take every negative event as a personal insult, and they don't allow themselves to be devastated when something goes wrong. Nor do they blame themselves for life's misfortune.
  • Optimists experience disappointments just like everyone else, but they're able to view them as temporary events. They see them as speed bumps to be gotten over or road blocks that must gotten around.

Optimism isn't burying your head in the sand. If you're stuck in a quandary about a relationship or an obligation and you're not sure what to do, it's only common sense to turn to professionals for help. It's no different than when you're confronted with a complex medical problem and seek care from an expert. A cardiologist for a heart problem. A nephrologist for a kidney problem. It's a sign of good judgment and maturity to acknowledge that you're struggling and to turn to a professional who can provide guidance.

So the discussion is about more than whether the glass is half full or half empty. Please weigh in since we are all struggling with these issues.


Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

Join the discussion at #Stress.

April 17, 2013