Hello! Seiiti Arata. Do you know someone who is optimistic? And can you also think of pessimistic people? What do they do differently? Is the optimist always waiting for victories and the pessimist always waiting for defeat?
By the way, what is “defeat”? What is “victory”? How can you recognize a loser or a winner, whatever that is? How would you define a pessimistic or optimistic thinking?
All these questions help us understand the different choices we can make. Our choices reveal how we think and what kind of practical consequences we are going to reap.
At every moment your mind can interpret and reinterpret the most radically different situations. You can even imagine future scenarios that have not happened yet.
And before any event (past, present and future) you have two choices: either you can think like a winner, or you can think like a loser. This choice determines your degree of optimism or pessimism.
1. Victory and defeat are relative.
First we need to define victory and defeat. These definitions help us to understand and identify what is victorious thinking and what is defeated thinking.
If I say that John was fired and that his bank account is zeroed, what does that mean? Anyone who thinks John is a loser is making a hasty conclusion, because with this information alone we do not have enough details. We do not know what John’s context is, and most important, we do not know what is important to him.
If John refused to participate in immoral or fraudulent activities at work, he might have felt victorious when he was fire. He did not let peer pressure influence him to do something he thinks is wrong.
If he has no money in his bank account because he used his lifetime’s savings to pay for surgery for a loved one, he can feel the victory of saving a life.
Therefore, to find the meaning of victory and failure, let’s not look at the outward appearances. Let’s understand the objectives and the context.
Do not let the judgment of others define whether you are a victorious or defeated person. Only you will make this evaluation.
Let us define failure as the absence of the desired result. Instead of suffering from sadness and a feeling of helplessness, we can understand that we are still walking the path that can bring the results. That’s why in the previous episode we saw how personalities like Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs and JK Rowling went through moments of frustration before reaching success. You can see more in episode 75 of the series Hello! Seiiti Arata at http://arata.se/hello75.
2. Beware of rationalization.
Now that you know that victory and defeat depend on what you want to achieve, here comes a warning: your own mind can deceive you. You may begin to believe that you did not really want to achieve the goal, after all.
Remember the fable of the fox that was jumping to reach the grapes but could not catch them. What did the fox say to reduce his frustration? “Oh, I did not want those grapes anyway—they are probably sour.”
This is a mechanism of ego protection to justify for ourselves why we do not achieve what we want.
For example, when a breakup occurs, it is common to put more emphasis on the former partner’s negative characteristics. We might say, “Oh, that person? I’m so glad we’re done; I could not stand this and that…” Isn’t it true?
If you are interested in the subject of self-deception, check out episode 32 of the series Hello! Seiiti Arata at http://arata.se/hello32.
In his book, When Prophecy Fails, Leon Festinger tells the story of a cult that predicted the end of the world at a certain date. When the world did not end, instead of realizing that their prophecy was wrong, they rationalized that it was their faith that had saved the planet. Beware of rationalization: it prevents us from perceiving the obvious truth.
3. Pessimistic thinking believes things will go wrong.
The future has not yet happened. And because we fear being frustrated, pursuing a goal and failing to reach it, pessimistic thinking develops the belief that the outcome will be below expectations or altogether impossible.
In this way, we do not get frustrated, and we protect our ego. There is, however, a serious problem with this choice of attitude.
When I think like a loser, I will not even start a project because I already have an initial belief that it will not work. Or, even if I start, I will give up at the first obstacle, which will serve as proof that my pessimistic belief was correct.
The thoughts of defeat serve only to massage the ego. They do not stimulate me to grow and find ways of overcoming.
4. Beware of optimistic thinking.
You may be wondering then if the best way is to think optimistically. Maybe you should believe that everything will surely work out in the future. This is also not a very practical choice. We have already talked about it in episode 23 of the series Hello! Seiiti Arata – http://arata.se/hello23.
5. Be neither optimistic nor pessimistic—be an explorer!
Instead of thinking “I’ll be able to do it for sure” or “This will never work”, there is another alternative, that of exploratory curiosity.
To assume a posture of exploratory curiosity, let’s look at the challenges ahead and ask, “What are the different strategies I can adopt? Which strategy has the best chance of bringing results?” And as I implement the strategy, how can I improve my plans as I am learning? What is the price I’m willing to pay?
Defeatist thinking seems comfortable, but it is a way to delude oneself to protect the ego. In addition, it is an attitude that does not stimulate growth and learning.
And as it is a choice, I can at any moment change my way of thinking and take on the exploratory curiosity and then reap results closer to what I truly desire. It is not always easy to change your attitude. To make it easier, the Better New Year course separates classes in different dimensions of goals: money, health, love, and success, using activities for lasting change. You can visit the http://arata.se/betternewyear link for full access to the course and learn to control pessimistic thinking now.