Let’s Goal Girls: The Power of Optimism

Let’s Goal Girls: The Power of Optimism

Author’s note: I am so pleased and excited to share with you an excerpt from Let’s Goal Girls, a book that my dear friend Susan Young and I are writing together! Let’s Goal Girls will be published next year, and it is the culmination of our decades of experience and passion for helping people improve their lives. This book is full of tips and advice backed by years of research, as well as exercises to help you: set and achieve your goals, maximize your potential, overcome challenges, and strike a healthy work/life balance. We hope you enjoy the following excerpt from the chapter, “Master Your Mindset.” Stay tuned for more sneak peeks and our publication announcement! 

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

– Winston Churchill

Why is it that when we go to get our goals, some people are overwhelmed and defeated by the smallest setback, while others are challenged and motivated by the same situations? According to Martin Seligman, author of “Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life,” one of the biggest factors affecting your outlook on life is your explanatory style or how you habitually explain to yourself why events happen to you.

Imagine that you have a goal of getting a job.  You’re very excited about a new position that’s just opened.  And then, a few days after completing the application, you receive a rejection letter. According to Seligman, the way that you interpret or think about the rejection can either keep you moving ahead or lead you to give up.

There are three elements that make up your explanatory style, which combined make you either an optimistic, hopeful thinker or a pessimistic, helpless thinker.  They are whether you view a situation or circumstance to be:

  • Permanent or Temporary
  • Pervasive or Specific
  • Personal or Other

Staying with the rejection letter example above, a pessimist would view this event as:

  • Permanent: “I’ll never get a job.”
  • Pervasive: “There is no one that is going to hire me.”
  • Personal: “It’s my fault. I don’t have the skills that I need to get a job.”

An optimist, on the other hand, would view the same event as:

  • Temporary: “This is just one instance. If I apply to a few more places, I’ll get a job.”
  • Specific: “The problem was that I waited until the last minute to submit my resume. Next time, I’ll apply earlier.”
  • Other: “The just didn’t see all of the wonderful qualities I have to offer.”

So how do you view events in your life?

Think about a time when you have had a setback or disappointment. Using the explanatory style model, how did you interpret the event? In other words, what did you say to yourself that kept you moving forward or kept you stuck?

Event: __________________________________________________________________

Permanent:  _____________________________________________________________

Pervasive: _______________________________________________________________

Personal: ________________________________________________________________


Dr. Susanne Gaddis
The Communications Doctor

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