Do you ever wonder why some people get the breaks that make them successful and others don’t? No doubt, living with a chronic illness can lead you down this path. When I read Breaking Murphy’s Law: How Optimists Get What They Want from Life and Pessimists Can Too, by Suzanne Segerstrom, some of my ideas about this question were confirmed and some were changed.
I mentioned this book a while back . There’s much good stuff here. It sounds like a ‘self help” book’ but it’s not. It doesn’t prescribe but it explores decades of research that Dr. Segerstrom and others have devoted to this idea and, most importantly, how it can be applied in your life.
Here’s one take away:
‘The difference between optimists and pessimists are not whether they have goals but in how they approach their goals’ ( paraphrase, not direct quote). According to Segerstrom, optimists believe they will achieve their goals and are committed to achieving their goals, even when facing roadblocks. Her research shows that optimism becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. It keeps a person focused on the goal rather than the road block. It also helps if the person likes the journey and isn’t solely focused on the destination. Pessimists are more easily sidetracked by doubt and fear and give up much more easily when things get tough.
For a long time, I’ve mused on why some people do better integrating living with illness than others. As a coach, I offer a fresh set of eyes to identify and build on a person’s strengths and successes and explore how this can be applied to the current situation — typically struggling with illness and it’s impact on a work life. I’m no researcher.
But I have seen that people with a track record of success are more likely to be able to face the difficulties that unpredictable illness poses — or any difficulty for that matter. Experiencing success encourages you to believe it can happen again.
Optimism isn’t finding the bright spot in a totally gloomy day, putting on your ‘happy face’ or even keeping a ‘stiff upper lip’. It’s not about saying everything is fine when it isn’t. It is about recognizing what you want and giving it your best shot, regardless of the challenges, because you believe in the possibility.
According to her research, Dr. Segerstrom has found that people who behave this way have better health outcomes, too. I agree that this is something that can be learned. Do you?