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.
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