2021/10/22, by Emma Weaver
When it comes to “optimism”, some people may feel that optimistic people are often cheerful and carefree, while we deserve to promote an optimistic attitude, not this somewhat “blind” optimism.
True optimists are not optimistic because they do not see the predicament, but they believe that no matter what the status quo is like, things will always change in the direction of something better.
What do optimistic people have in common?
The most fundamental characteristic of positive, optimistic people is the ability to see things turning around. They believe that they can impact people or things around them, rather than being completely swallowed up by reality or force majeure such as fate. In the face of adversity, optimists believe they can make the situation at least better than the status quo through their efforts.
In contrast, pessimists are often quick to jump to conclusions — the matter will be just like that, and so will this person (in most cases, themselves, but it could be someone else). Prematurely characterizing people for things is denying the opportunity for a turnaround.
People with a positive, optimistic outlook are not knocked down by a single failure or mistake — they leave room for change and put in the effort to reap better results. From a psychological perspective, this reflects high self-efficacy: I believe I am capable enough to create change (Bandura, 1982).
How to improve self-efficacy and become more optimistic?
When it comes to “self-efficacy”, many people think that only those who are very capable and have a lot of potential may have high self-efficacy. However, this idea is a bit one-sided. Although self-efficacy is related to ability in the absolute sense (skill), the observation of oneself is the greatest source of information for building self-efficacy: when faced with a problem that has been solved before, past successes can increase our self-efficacy and make us believe that we do have the ability to bring about positive change; similarly, past failures can lead us to believe that no matter how much effort we put in, we cannot make We may believe that no matter how much effort we put in, we will not be able to make a change in our situation — even if the effort has not happened.
So, for the time being, regardless of where the upper limit of our ability is, adjusting our perceptions helps us to put our abilities to better use.
Make good use of the little theater in your head.
People with low self-efficacy tend to rehearse a million possibilities for failure in their minds before they start solving problems. Low self-efficacy often come with low mental toughness: the possibility of failure is an illusion is enough to make them hesitate, the more they think about it, the more they are afraid, the more they think about it, the more they can not really start — there will never be an end to the problem, I attempted, so what? This has long been beyond my ability, but it is just a futile effort. Once the actual operation failed, they will immediately rationalize their own mistakes: I could not have done well, it is only normal to fail.
In order to develop and improve self-efficacy, we need to do the opposite: rehearse in our minds the many possibilities for success, objectively analyze the factors necessary for success, what problems we may encounter along the way, and what solutions are available for each problem ...... We need to accept that everyone needs to prepare, and that every solution is not simply a step in the right direction. We need to get used to rehearsing ahead of time, recognizing our capabilities, and accepting that our considerations may not be 100% thoughtful.
For people who are accustomed to adequate preparation and rehearsal, failure to solve a problem in one sitting means that they have not prepared well enough and have room for improvement, rather than that they are flawed and powerless over the current situation. This way of attributing failure is called the growth mindset (Dweck, 1999). For positive, optimistic people with high self-efficacy, there is room for improvement in everything, and failure helps point them to this area.
Separate the advantages and disadvantages, do not make things difficult for yourself
Although we aspire to be excellent in more areas, there is no need to work against ourselves intentionally because of this desire. This is because self-efficacy is not a cross-issue, cross-category concept: having high self-efficacy in one category of issues does not mean that I feel equally effective in the face of all issues.
This is why we all feel we have things we are good at and not good at. For example, a person may believe that if they are given enough time to solve a difficult math problem, they will be able to figure it out; but if they are asked to give a public speech, they will feel that they cannot overcome their fears no matter what. In other words, their self-efficacy does not transfer across domains.
Faced with this situation, the positive and the negative come to two very different conclusions: to the optimist, he or she is someone who is good at math but needs to work on presentation skills — realizing the deficiencies and actually visualizing the areas that need improvement. But to the pessimist, he or she is a person who is wimpy when there are many people and does not organize his or her language well — ignoring his or her strengths and making his or her deficiencies serious. At the same time, the pessimist constantly compares himself to other good speakers in his head, adding to the negative psychological implication that there is no evidence to support him — I am a person of limited ability.
Therefore, to maintain an optimistic attitude toward life, we should always remind ourselves that our own self-efficacy is divided into domains and the self-efficacy of others. In other words, we should not break ourselves into many small parts and compare each part with the strongest part of others. Comparing everyone into “self” and “others” is not fair to ourselves: we are comparing ourselves to a non-existent perfect individual that is a patchwork of everyone else's strengths.
Use relationships to become more optimistic.
In addition to a shift in self-awareness and perception, interactions with others can also foster and help us maintain an optimistic mindset. Things come in groups, and people come in groups — optimistic people tend to be surrounded by more optimistic people. That's why optimists are called “happiness magnets”. We can deal with optimistic people more often, let them infect us naturally, observe and learn from their optimism in our daily lives.
In addition, it's not a bad idea to actively show interest in others. We can achieve mutual support by building empathy with others.” Negative attitudes such as “self-loathing” and “brokenness” can turn others away. Taking the initiative to connect with others, not dismissing others' feelings, and sharing their views solidify good relationships and strengthen social support. With enough social support, self-efficacy and resilience will also increase along with mental ease, eventually entering a positive, optimistic virtuous cycle.
Finally, to share a quote for you, “Staying positive doesn't mean you have to be happy all the time, it means that even on the toughest days, you believe there will be a day when things get better.”
- Bandura, A. (1982). Self-efficacy mechanism in human agency. American Psychologist, 37, 122–147.
- Dweck, C. S. (1999). Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development. Philadelphia: Psychology Press.
- Dweck, C. S. (2010). Even geniuses work hard. Educational Leadership, 68(1), 16-20.
- Newman, B. M., & Newman, P. R. (2016). Theories of human development (2nd edition). Psychology Press: New York, NY.