I’m honored to participate in The Millennial Family internet magazine! I believe the true spirit of this remarkable online resource for world-wide families is captured in the welcome message where it reads:
Fear and negativity are plentiful. Oursociety looks for the negative “dooms day” information. While we do live in precarious times, has there ever been a time where there were no challenges? Each generation faced their difficulties and as a result of their attitudes, were impacted either for the better or for the worse.
After more than 25 years of studying human behavior and helping individuals overcome unwanted habits, I can tell you that a person’s attitude or mindset is everything. We don’t see the world as it is, but rather as we are. As human beings, our thoughts and intentions broadcast a certain “frequency” or energy, which in turn attracts back to us the same type of people and circumstances. When it comes to our thoughts and attitudes, “like attracts like.” Let me talk for a minute about optimism and how to make it an “automatic” response or habit in your life.
As usual, things are looking up for optimists. Scientific research shows a direct link between a positive mental attitude and a longer lifespan—and also links pessimism with poor physical health. In a long-term study, the Mayo Clinic tracked the 30 year medical histories of 839 individuals. As adults these individuals took personality tests between 1962 and 1965, and then for the next 30 years their health was monitored. Of the group 124 were classified as optimists, 197 as pessimists and 518 fell somewhere in between. The pessimists in the group had a higher than expected mortality rate compared with the death rates of either the optimists or the middle-of-the-road types. In fact, every 10 point increase in pessimism scores was associated with a 19% increase in the risk of death! The optimists on the other hand had a survival rate significantly better than expected. While I don’t have time in this short article to review all of the reasons why pessimism negatively affects health and longevity, while optimism increases vitality and long life, I would like to focus on four simple steps to a great attitude. Become an optimist and you’ll feel better and live longer.
A well-established principle of psychology and behavioral science is that it’s not what happens to us that counts, but how we react to what happens – especially when it’s a problem that is unexpected. Here are three simple steps you can use to maintain a wonderful positive attitude within, regardless of what’s happening without.
Step number 1—Focus on the Future: Whatever challenges you face, focus on the future rather than on the past. Forget about how unfair it all is, who’s to blame or why does this always happen to me? Instead focus on what you want to do next and where you want to end up. Get a clear picture in your mind of your ideal future and immediately begin taking small steps in that direction. Get your mind fully focused on a positive, hopeful future, and don’t waste any time wallowing around in the past.
Step number 2 – Focus on a Solution: Rather than focusing all of your thoughts and energy on the problem at hand, spend all of your time pondering and discussing the ideal solution. A solution-focus is automatically positive while a problem-focus is inherently negative. The moment you begin thinking about a solution, the power of optimism becomes your ally.
Step number 3—Always Look for the Good: Assume that hidden within every challenge is an opportunity. Dr. Norman Vincent Peal once said, “Whenever God wants to give us a gift, he wraps it up in a problem.” If you’re facing a big problem, that simply means there’s a significant gift waiting for you. Every cloud has a silver lining—every challenge a hidden gift to find if you’ll just look for it. A significant part of that gift is the fact that challenges and problems often come to us because there is something we need to learn, something to help us grow and progress.
So, in quick summary, here are the three steps for optimism in every situation:
Move out of the past as quickly as possible and immediately start heading towards the future.
Make a habit of looking for the solution in every difficulty you face.
Discover the valuable lesson to be learned with every challenge, and write down all of the insights and knowledge you gain as you pass through it.
There you have it – three simple steps to a positive outlook on life. Optimism will improve your health, happiness, relationships and very likely extend your life—I highly recommend it!
The Millennial Family website is a remarkable opportunity for you to connect with the families of the world. Share your challenges, ask for advice and offer insight and support to others. As you do, please remember to approach all of it with a spirit of optimism. Help others to recognize valuable lessons learned and experience gained, to find solutions, and then to start moving forward—always forward.
Mark B. Kastleman
Mark Kastleman is an internationally acclaimed speaker, trainer and author. Mark has worked with leading brain scientists and psychologists in developing education and training programs used world-wide to help individuals overcome difficult-to-change behaviors.
Mark is a Co-Founder and Director of Education and Training for candeocan.com providing online programs that assist individuals with overcoming unwanted behaviors. Currently, online help is available for overcoming pornography use and other unwanted sexual behaviors. Programs under development include—depression and anxiety; drug and alcohol addiction, weight loss and wellness.
Mark and his wife Ladawn are the proud parents of six children and adore their grandchildren.