Optimism – or rather too much optimism – has been blamed as the cause of many things including the recession, high-risk enterprises and happy go-lucky “Pollyanna-ism“.
Having just finished psychologist Martin Seligman’s newest book Flourish, I found myself agreeing with the plight: Life is about getting the most out of our limited time – living and playing well, finding meaning, raising the bar for the human condition -not only ours but for those around us. And how does positivity overall count in well being, happiness – and you can use your own definition here – contentment.
Are you better off being overall positive as a person or is there data and evidence that a hard core “realism” – I will not go to the pessimistic side- serve you better? Positive emotions, optimism and resilience have always been favorite topics of mine as they affect behavior and stance in life as a means to performance at both personal and professional level.
For Seligman, the new acronym is PERMA: Positive emotion (the pleasant life), Engagement, Relationships (and how we share life with other people), Meaning (believing and serving something bigger than yourself) and Accomplishment/achievement (what you choose to do for its own sake – without anyone forcing you to do it).
What gives meaning and purpose to life? Is there a recipe, a prescription, a go-do or not-do list one should follow? Skeptics galore make the reviews acidic and like all pundit commentary, I have learned to take everything with a grain of salt. I take what I like and leave what I don’t behind – and my bias is towards discovery and exploration.
Everything new you do – adds wealth to your life experience. From learned helplessness to predicting NBA winning teams based on optimistic/pessimistic attitudes of players and coaches to wealth data and Gross Domestic Product figures and national happiness indexes, and the pursuit of money and how that does not necessarily make you any happier, the process of thinking, doubting, assessing and in the end – choosing is so enthralling.
And it was in Martin Seligman’s acknowledgements that I really paused: “total disagreement does not cancel gratitude.” The details of the who and the why are irrelevant -but how often have you argued hard and strong and determined – only to find yourself respecting and appreciating the other side more and more?
So, here’s to all the Socratic dialogues, the divergent points of view, the other side of the story, the inside out of whatever box you are playing with. Life’s so much better with them.