Pollyanna Was On To Something

I have a confession to make.  I remember watching the Disney version of Pollyanna many years ago.  I must have been about ten years old (it was a re-run, not the initial release), and I’m afraid even at that young age my cynicism shone through.  No way could anyone really see all that good in the world.  Didn’t she realize how difficult this world could be?  Didn’t she see how much could go wrong?  I have to admit that I had a tendency to take myself–and the world– a bit too seriously in my formative years.  I’m not sure why a ten-year old felt more comfortable with the idea of pessimism rather than the possibility of optimism. I suppose I just wanted to be a grown up, and that was how grown ups acted in my world.

I have been very lucky to have some amazing people in my life.  For the last twenty years or so, one of them is a very close friend who used to drive me crazy with her unfailingly optimistic attitude.  No matter what was going on, or how bad things seemed, she could always see the positive side of things.    I renamed her Pollyanna on many occasions, and we had a pretty good running joke about it.

But here is the part that always blows me away.  She is still Pollyanna, and is one of the happiest people I know.  It’s not that she has perfect life.  She has her issues and challenges just like all of us.  But she always seems to come out on top, and things always work out for her.  It’s almost as if by refusing to acknowledge any negative possibilities, she allows more room for the positive to manifest itself.  And slowly but surely, this habit has rubbed off on me.

There is a fascinating book by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson called Positivity.   Her research in this book shows that there is an actual ratio of positive to negative emotions that contributes to a person’s overall happiness.   For every negative emotion one needs to have three corresponding positive emotions in order to function at an optimal, or actualized, level.  The ratio is important as it takes into account the fact that negative emotions also play a part in outlook, and it is not realistic to pretend those feelings don’t exist.  Although I have never tested it, I think my friend’s ratio would be something closer to ten to one.  It’s not really surprising given today’s world that 80% of the population has ratio of less than three to one.

I firmly believe that optimism and gratitude play a huge role in the reality we create for ourselves.  It took me a long time, but I can proudly say that I am now a recovering pessimist.  Like any addiction, it is an ongoing battle, but worth the fight.  There are so many more opportunities now that I accept that the worst doesn’t have to happen.  It brings a whole level of energy and purpose into my world.

I may never be Pollyanna, but I’m definitely no longer Eeyore from Winnie-the-Pooh.

Head over to Dr. Fredrickson’s website, www.positivityratio.com and take the free test.  It’s easy, and only takes a couple of minutes.  I bet you will be surprised by the results.

How about you?  Does optimism play an important role in your life?  I’d love to hear if you are on Team Eeyore or Team Pollyanna and how that choice is working out for you.  

If you found this article helpful,  I would be delighted if you shared with others.  

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6 Responses to Pollyanna Was On To Something

  1. Laura Bohler June 14, 2012 at 1:17 am #

    Chris, this is perfect. I love what you wrote. I do admit that I probably love it because I live it. I don’t believe it was a conscious choice to be optimistic, but as I saw the benefits of being so in my life it became something that I consciously appreciate. Perhaps learning through experience that everything tends to work out well no matter what happens allowed me to live life that way. It might be that in looking for the positive, we find avenues and means to a better way that we might have missed if we’d kept our heads down, eyes to the ground. I’d say I’m Team Pooh, rather than Pollyanna. I think Polly had her head in the clouds, which can limit perspective as much as Eeyore with his head down and eyes on the ground. I can say, “Oh, bother,” and accept the negative, then keep moving on to something new and better, being able to see the ground, the clouds, the mountains and the stars, and a path to a better way, too. I enjoy your writing and the thoughts and ideas you share, and look forward to reading more.

    • Chris Griffin June 14, 2012 at 2:11 am #

      Laura,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this. You are on to something with Team Pooh. We can’t ignore the negative, it is real and it exists. How we chose to react to it is what determines us as a person. It also plays a huge role in the life we chose to create. It sounds like you are creating a life that a lot of people would be envious of. Thanks so much for the comments and support. I really appreciate it. Chris

  2. dmatthews001 June 14, 2012 at 4:30 am #

    Chris,
    I don’t think I fall into either category. My outlook is often more critical than cynical. Not quite Eeyore, but far from Pollyanna. I believe you are correct that we are affected by our own negativity, and that a positive outlook needs to be cultivated. I get mired in my work and find it hard to be positive with myself. That’s where you come in…right! Coaching can help us all look at ourselves and make positive changes in our lives. Thanks for doing what you do!

    • Chris Griffin June 14, 2012 at 8:47 pm #

      The great thing about optimism is that we can cultivate it. I’ve been doing it for a while now and it has made a tremendous difference in my daily life. I used to be the mascot for Team Eeyore, but there are so many more opportunities available when you acknowledge the positive. Work stress is one of the most dangerous ways to undermine an optimistic attitude, but it is possible to achieve that 3/1 ratio even with 15 hour days. Maybe not easy, but possible. Thanks for appreciating what I do.

  3. Jan June 14, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

    Let’s hear it for Team Pollyanna ! ! ! I’ve never been able to understand how people can’t find a positive thought about any given event in life – even if it’s just one thing. And maybe that one thing is nothing more than the knowledge that there is someone out there that probably is worse off than you. And there is ALWAYS someone with more problems. One of my favorite lines from a song (from White Christmas) “when you’re worried and you can’t sleep just count your blessings instead of sheep and you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings”. Not a bad way to look at life. Yes, you can call me Pollyanna :)

    • Chris Griffin June 14, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

      Jan, I think they should do a remake of Pollyanna, and cast you in the title role! Seriously, if more people could adopt your outlook, the world would be a much happier place.