Take an honest look at your personality. Are you a pessimist or an optimist? When the clouds of concern sweep into your emotional life, do you look down and complain about them? Or do you search the clouds for the silver lining of opportunity. There have been some interesting studies done concerning these two personality types. Researchers have found that people who are pessimistic are generally more realistic about life than their optimistic sisters and brothers. Optimists tend to gloss over obstacles and minimize problems. They don't create a balanced picture of circumstances. They also tend to idealize situations disproportionately.

However, optimists are generally more successful and accomplish much more than their pessimistic siblings-in spite of their lack of objectivity. The reason for this is that the optimist ignores some of the negative facts and weighs the positive aspects of the situation more heavily. They tend to accomplish things that their pessimistic friends don't even attempt. In fact, they often accomplish the seemingly impossible.

These studies present each of us with a very important choice between being optimistic or pessimistic. Which will it be for you? If you want to be more optimistic, this column contains some suggestions to revitalize your positive predisposition.

  1. Remember what Henry Ford said, "You can believe you can, or you can believe you can't, either way you will be correct." Ford understood more than just how to make cars. He saw that the way we view life determines its outcome. Psychologists call this phenomenon the self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think something will work, you will try possibilities until you find the solution. Obviously, if you think your efforts are doomed to failure, you will quickly quit after an initial failed attempt.
  2. Make life a game. Take a problem and make it into a contest like the Super-Bowl. If you need to further your education, make that burdensome task into a game. Frame your response to that goal in terms of you against an opponent. Next, design a game plan that will bring you victory over the opposition and then execute that strategy. For example, make studying for a test into your attempt to score a touchdown. Obviously, there will be struggles and setbacks, but you are going to win and you know it.
  3. Affirm other optimistic people daily. This will make you look for them and it will reinforce your positive mental attitude about life. Associate with people who see an opportunity in every problem. They will become your support group, and you will become theirs. When you center your life in this manner, your positive momentum will carry you over the rough spots that might have stalled you before. Regardless of how optimistic you are, each of us needs a locker room pep talk from time to time. Associating with optimistic people will benefit you when you might be losing your optimistic edge. In turn, you will be able to assist them when they are losing theirs.
  4. Push the envelope of opportunity by trying something that seems just beyond your reach. Make a list of things that you always believed impossible for you to obtain. Playing the bagpipes is on my list. I've tried a couple of times to no avail. In my pessimistic mood, I say, "I'm not meant to play; it is just beyond me." My negative belief seals my fate, and I haven't yet learned to play them. Not only does this squelch my efforts at learning to play but also my pessimistic attitude contaminates other areas of my life. However, the converse is equally true. When we try something new and succeed, we start to build a positive momentum that will enable us to obtain goals that we once thought were impossible.

Henry Ford was a great inventor, but he also understood human nature. Remember his caution: "You can believe you can, or you can believe you can't, either way you will be correct." Take to heart his admonition, follow these few suggestions, and you will be an optimistic winner in life.