OPTIMISM MUST FOCUS ON ACTIONS
An eminent psychologist told how when he was young, he bought into his parents’ encouragement when they said he could be anything he wanted to be. “So I decided I would be a shortstop for the Chicago Cubs when I grew up. Of course, as I grew older, it slowly dawned on me that I had nowhere near the requisite skills to be a major league ballplayer. Mom and dad were wrong.”
So what did our famous psychologist do? Did he quit life and blame his parents for all his misfortune? Absolutely not. He focused realistically and positively on his strengths, and worked hard to develop those skills. The point is, when stressed over failure, you must focus on doing a realistic appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses and base your actions on them. Do a behavior inventory of daily activities. Are they actions that make you feel more adequate and bring you satisfaction? Cultivate those actions that make you feel productive. Remember that praise from others is nice to hear, but actions that bring you personal fulfillment are much more important in enhancing psychological growth.
Make efforts to interact with people who complement you and your actions. Maintain your autonomy in those interactions because independent action increases personal satisfaction. If material rewards come from actions that make you feel productive, consider the rewards icing on the cake, not the reason you’re baking the cake. Exercise caution about using mood-altering prescription medication until you have done a thorough behavior inventory. Appreciate and enjoy the little things, especially those that are consistent with your values. Perhaps a smile from a child, a quiet walk in the park, contacting a friend, a good movie or book, helping others in need….those things that bring you satisfaction. If you are spiritual, use faith to give you confidence and remind you everything is not for you to control, but you can develop the courage to challenge things under your control.
Coping with your life from a realistic optimistic perspective will spur you to empower yourself and initiate autonomous actions that will give you feelings of personal control. Coping with your life from a pessimistic perspective will encourage you to turn sheepishly to others to manage, direct, and control your actions. Would you seek counseling expecting the therapist to wave a magic wand and make you all better? Do you look for the miracle drug to turn your life around and transform you into a new person? Those are dead-end roads, folks.
But you must understand and accept that coping with challenges in your life may be worthwhile but it’s not always easy. You’re going to have to put forth some effort to determine what you can control, and focus your actions within that context.