This is the ninth in a series of posts in which I share thoughts on a book that has inspired me over the years.
This is the ultimate paradox in life: Whatever you most need at any time in your life will be hardest for you to find at precisely the time you need it most. That’s why Barbara Fredrickson’s book Positivity is so vitally important today. More than 18 months into the pandemic, it is getting harder to remain positive in the face of so many challenges. It is also more important than ever.
The opposite of positivity is negativity, and negativity is never an effective strategy for achieving big goals or living a rewarding and fulfilling life.
Complaining is not an effective strategy for solving problems. It takes courage to take initiative, including asking for help when you need it, and it takes equanimity to accept the problems that are beyond your ability to influence (as we all learned from the famous serenity prayer).Nor is pessimism an effective strategy since you tend to get what you expect, and pessimism is expecting bad things rather than good.
This truth has been proven out in medicine where it is known as the Placebo Effect; in psychology where it is known as the Pygmalion Effect; and in business where it is known as the Hawthorne Effect. In his books on Learned Optimism, which I’ll include in a future edition, Martin Seligman shows that optimism is a skill that can be learned and practiced, and that those who do learn and practice it tend to be happier and more successful as a result.
One more thing. Whenever someone tells me that I’m being a Pollyanna, I take that as a great compliment. In the book Pollyanna, a young girl transforms the spirit of an entire community. Where there is hate, she sparks love. Where there is alienation, she sparks friendship. Where there is resentment, she sparks gratitude. And I say, what’s wrong with that? In fact, isn’t that what we need in our world today above all else?
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