Pathways to Wellness

conversation • connection • commitment

Being hopeful

Some of us are born optimists and some of us are born pessimists. You’ve probably heard the expression, an optimist sees the glass as half full and the pessimist sees the glass as half empty. This might be a simple way of highlighting a positive outlook but there’s a lot more to optimism than that.

The real difference between optimism and pessimism is how we think about the setbacks and successes in everyday life. It turns out that optimists and pessimists think very differently.

When things go wrong, an optimist sees it as an isolated incident, and has faith that they can prevent it from happening again in the future. A pessimist thinks in exactly the opposite way:  he sees the setback as confirmation that nothing ever goes right - it’s beyond his control.

It gets pretty interesting when you look at how optimists and pessimists view success. When things go right, the optimist takes the credit, and believes that she will be successful in the future in just about any situation. The pessimist is likely to shrug off the success (“it was nothing.”)   Or she may say that the success was due to luck, coincidence or some other factor beyond her control.

Optimistic thinking

Pessimistic thinking

I'm exhausted today.

I never do anything right.

I worked hard and did a good job.

It’s my lucky day.

I'm smart.

I'm just good at math.

You can see that pessimists beat themselves up no matter what happens – even when things go well, whereas optimists think about things in ways which allow them to feel good about themselves and in control of their lives.

When you experience a success, or a setback, see if you can discover how you explain it to yourself, and others. Is there a way of thinking about what caused the success or setback which allows you to feel hopeful and in charge?

If you’re having trouble changing your inner voice, try thinking about a time in the past when you’ve been successful and felt hopeful and in charge. This can sometimes be enough to shift your thinking in a more positive direction.

Try out some of the exercises in this section and discover how you might experience more happiness without winning at bingo!

Learn more