What is optimism?

Posted: 01/03/2017

Optimism is NOT positive thinking; so what is it?

Optimism involves generating:

  1. HOPE that things can change
  2. ACTION to make sure they do change.

Most people assume that optimism is the same as positive thinking. Positive thinking is when you reassure yourself that a positive outcome will occur, or you try to visualise the positive outcome in the hope that this will increase the chances of it occurring. The optimism approach is a bit different in that it focuses on how you can face your situation and choose the best strategy for adapting to that situation.

Optimism requires you to focus on your desired state (how you want things to be) while you check the story you are telling yourself about the situation.

For example, many people feel unhappy with their health or fitness. A positive thinking approach might involve affirming to yourself that you are becoming healthier every day. While this might be momentarily uplifting, it may not trigger follow-through action. Using the optimism approach, we would firstly clarify where the person wanted to be in terms of their health or fitness. We might then help them to identify a specific, ‘small chunk’ goal in relation to their health. We might listen to the story they are telling themselves (‘I don’t have time to do exercise’ or ‘It’s too late to start at my age’ or ‘I hate doing exercise’) and ask a question that allows them to consider other possibilities (‘Where is the evidence for that?’ or ‘What would an on-looker say about this?’) We would then ask another question that might help to generate strategies the person could use to improve their fitness/health. For example, ‘What have you done in the past that might help?’ or ‘What do others in your situation do?’

Using the Optimism Boosters card pack can help you ask yourself (or others) questions to clarify your goal, see possibilities for improving your situation and generate actions that you can immediately take to improve things.


Extract from ‘Optimism Boosters‘ booklet, (original version) 
by Selina Byrne M.A.P.S., pp 10 – 11 


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