Sharing an article published by copywriting expert John Forde in his November 4 “Copywriters Roundtable” newsletter. It discusses one of my favorite Law of Attraction principles about optimism.
HALF A GLASS, EITHER WAY
Speaking of reflection, I came across an article the other day, about some Harvard research.
In it, they were talking about how to hire good employees and what traits to look for.
Of course there are many that matter. e.g. smarts, curiosity, an aversion to using flamethrowers during board meetings…
But, per the research, one that stood out was… optimism. When future employees were picked based on an optimistic outlook alone, they tended to work out best for the company.
Oh please, I hear the devout pessimist in you saying, as you roll your eyes. The best way to never be disappointed is to always expect the worst. Unless, of course, you were counting on the worst and things turn out well. In which case, bummer. Because you’ll be mad things went so well.
Pessimists, you’ll say, always have a contingency plan ready. By not trusting people, they don’t get taken advantage of.
And so on.
And yet, Harvard researcher Shawn Achor who ran the study (Google his TED talk), you’ll be happy to know you’re wrong. Optimists, for one, outperform pessimists by a big margin.
MET Life, the big insurance company, was one of the case studies Achor presented. The firm experimented by using an aptitude test to find more optimistic sales people.
Those that did better on the test outsold their pessimistic counterparts by 19% in the first year… and nearly 60% in the second.
But what about things like intelligence or experience? Sorry, says Achor’s research.
Great grades in school were about as predictive of career success as rolling a pair of dice, says Achor. Likewise with technical skill.
About 75% of a person’s career success, his team found, came down to three factors, all of them closely tied to life outlook:
First, the “believe that our behavior matters in the midst of challenge” or a decision to remain optimistic…
Second, the “depth and breadth of social relationships” or whether you’ve got good friends, which are infinitely easier to get when you’re not a “Don or Debbie Downer”…
And third, the way one perceives stress, which is also enormously dependent on whether you see it as an obstacle or opportunity.
Short version, says Achor, the idea that “Success breeds happiness” is exactly backward. Rather, “Happiness breeds success.”
Again, the grinding sound of rolling eyes is, perhaps, deafening. But consider…
* The optimistic man — or woman — tends to have better health, faster recovery time from illness and even surgery, and — cliché of the cranky old man be damned – live longer.
* The U.S. army teaches — orders — soldiers to be more optimistic because they’ve found that in combat and other tough situations, it makes them act tougher and more persistent.
* Simply expecting a more positive outcome in a negotiation tends to lead to better deal outcomes.
* Socially optimistic people tend to have more friends, more perceived luck, and — because happiness and gratitude even more of the same — a self-renewing resource of, well, optimism.
In our industry, selling products, the optimists tend to find the passion they need for products they can believe in.
They also have a much easier time identifying with the same hopeful mindset their prospects share.
Can optimism be learned?
No, you’ll say if you’re pessimist, absolutely not. And who would want to learn it if they could? But Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, a 20-year vet of clinical psychology, says yes it can.
They key, he says, is learning how to fix your explanatory style. Change the story you tell yourself, so to speak.
According to Seligman and a list that was reproduced by the wise folks over at bakadesuyo.com, you need to focus on what they call the “3 Ps” of Permanence, Pervasiveness, and whether events are Personal.
The pessimist, for instance, sees bad events as long lasting or even permanent situations, universally true application, and as the result of a personal attack or flaw.
The optimist, however, sees bad times as temporary, as a result of something specific and relative, and as something more random than personal.
And then those same views flip in good times, e.g. pessimists are sure the good stuff can’t last, rarely happen, and are random; optimists feel like the good times are typical, long-lasting, and something they can take credit for helping to cause.
It doesn’t matter, by the way, if the “real” facts support the pessimist position. And this is important, since pessimists often fall back on the rationalization, “I’m not a pessimist, I’m just a realist.” Often, they ARE more accurate. But also fail more, as a result.
That seems illogical, perhaps. But the bottom line is, as a result of their differing outlooks, pessimists quit. A lot. But optimists don’t. And that’s where the difference comes into play.
Sure, sometimes optimism can put you in a seriously foolish position (e.g. “I’m probably strong enough to wrestle that tiger.”)
Say the researchers, you need to ask yourself what the risks of a failure might be. If it’s high, like — say — death, then you might want to reevaluate.
But if it’s something low, like whether you’ll succeed at getting a sale or a job or giving a good speech or a date, then look up not down, for better results.
Hope, says yet another study, is a better predictor of personal achievements than your grades in school, IQ, or personality.
To get some, try channeling your thoughts to mirror those three key “P’s” — in problem situations, redefine them as temporary; find the ways in which they’re specific to a current situation rather than universally true; and look for external causes, rather than “all-my-fault” causes.