Perspective – the second pillar of Positive Resilience
PEOPLE WITH AN OPTIMISTIC PERSPECTIVE ARE PHYSICALLY HEALTHIER AND LIVE LONGER THAN THOSE LESS OPTIMISTIC
As we struggle with the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic, the peoplewise 7 Pillars of Positive Resilience, are making a tangible difference to peoples’ lives. Positive Resilience is the science and practice of developing mastery over our ability to not just cope with disruption and challenges but thrive and reach our full potential for happiness and success.
Today we’re focusing on the second pillar: Perspective.
What sort of perspective on life gives us the greatest benefits? It turns out that viewing life through an optimistic lens makes a huge difference. People with an optimistic perspective are happier and more satisfied with their lives2. They are better leaders and problem solvers1, and more successful at school, work and in athletics.2,3
Having an optimistic perspective is not the same as pretending that everything is perfect all the time. On the contrary, recognising the whole range of events and potential outcomes, good and bad, and being objective about situations is critical to developing perspective. Focusing on what you can control, blocking out unwanted distractions, and looking for positive interpretations of events helps you to stay optimistic about the future and motivated to move forward.
So how do you develop this optimistic yet objective perspective? How do you truly, deeply develop a sense of optimism and courage to move forward through the challenge, uncertainty, or adversity we’re all currently experiencing?
A first step is to consider your explanatory style, in other words, how you explain to yourself why you experience a particular event, either positive or negative. This is done by recognising that you have a choice in how you see things, standing back to consider a range of possible interpretations, and choosing one that is optimistic but also realistic4.
For example, if a friend doesn’t respond when you wave from across the road, what’s the best interpretation you could put on their behaviour? Maybe they just didn’t see you. What’s the worst case? Maybe you’ve done something to upset them so they’re ignoring you deliberately. What’s the most likely interpretation? It depends on what you’ve been doing recently, but you can probably assess the likelihood of each option. Our reaction and interpretation of the event colours our perspective. Over time we can learn to assess the whole range of possible interpretations and choose our perspective to be optimistic yet also realistic. Is the glass half-full or half-empty? Both are true, it depends on your perspective.
References and further reading
- The power of perspective-taking. London Business School, February 2017.
- See The Glass Half Full Or Empty? Why Optimists Are Happier, Healthier & Wealthier! , Forbes, 2012.
- The Benefits of Optimism. Greater Good Science Center, Berkeley, April 2008.
- Learned Optimism. Martin Seligman, 1990