How to Overcome Pessimism

Would you consider yourself to be an optimist or a pessimist? Are you always on edge, waiting for the next disaster to strike? Or do you look to the future with anticipation and joy? One of my biggest lessons in life has been understanding that “like attracts like.” I used to believe that I would be happy if I could only meet the right man, find the right job, lose enough weight, etc. But it didn’t work out that way. I did indeed do some of those things, but I still wasn’t happy. I had to learn to become happy first, and then everything else in my life began to transform to more closely match my attitude.

The majority of us tend to let our experiences influence our thoughts, rather than the other way around. One negative experience can ruin our mood for the day, which will cause us to act and think in ways that attract even more negativity, which puts us in an even worse mood, and on it goes! It creates a chain reaction of negativity that affects us, and everyone around us.

Obsessive fear and worry are also facets of a negative attitude. A certain amount of these emotions are normal, of course. Worrying about our performance in a job interview, or feeling fearful in a dangerous situation are to be expected and can actually do us good by keeping us sharp mentally. But how many of us take these to the extreme? Worrying excessively about things that are out of our control can do more harm than good.

I come from a long line of worriers, and I married into a family that has just as many. It’s like a genetic tendency or something. I always tease my husband that his family’s legacy is, “Be careful!” It is uttered at least once or twice every time we get together with them, usually as a farewell. Instead of “goodbye”, they say, “be careful!” Just once I’m tempted to reply, “No, actually I’m thinking of trying recklessness for awhile, see how that goes.” Somehow I don’t think they’d get the joke. 🙂

There is a difference of course, between worry and common sense. I’m not saying that we should throw caution to the wind and ignore safety. By all means, we should do what we can to minimize the potential for disaster. But constantly focusing on the bad things that could happen to us – and even expecting them to happen – can only keep us stuck in negative thought patterns.

Does that mean if we think only positive thoughts, only good things will happen to us? No, unfortunately, I don’t think that’s true either. I think there are certain experiences we need to go through in life for the purpose of strengthening us and helping us grow. Even though they’re not fun at the time, they serve our highest good in the long run.

Those situations aside, we do have control over much more of our lives than we realize. We need to remember that our thoughts have tremendous power! What if we decided to use that power in a conscious, focused way? What would we be capable of creating?

One of my favorite quotations is an Indian Proverb: “If you want to know what your thoughts were like yesterday, look at your body today. If you want to see what your body will be like tomorrow, look at your thoughts today.”

How powerful is that? And of course, the concept can be carried further than just the state of our bodies, to include the state of our lives too. Look around you. What have your thoughts created? Can you see a connection between your attitude in the past, and your circumstances today?

You can still change it. It’s never too late for an attitude shift. It will take practice and patience, of course. Remember that many of us have been thinking negatively for years, and old habits die hard. But if you set your mind to it, and keep focusing on the positive, positive circumstances will begin to bloom in your life.

Make a conscious decision to expect the best at all times. Even if you don’t end up with “the best”, you might still end up with something really good. 🙂

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