Friday, January 10, 2014

Are You Too Optimistic For Your Own Good?

THE OPTIMISM BIAS: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain by neuroscientist Tali Sharot is one of the most interesting non-fiction books I read last year. She got me thinking a little more about how our minds work.

Are you too optimistic for your own good? Or are one of those glass-is-half-empty type of individuals who has difficulty being positive about anything? Personally, I've always viewed life through a lens of optimism, even when circumstances didn't warrant it.

The good news is that we benefit in several different ways from having an optimistic outlook on our lives. The bad news is that not having at least one foot firmly set in reality can leave us exposed to all types of ruin: financial, health, emotional, etc.
Did you know that 80% of the population has an optimism bias and the other 20% who don't are mildly depressed?

Interesting Findings:

  • We tend to underestimate the negative and overestimate the positive?
  • Although we're optimistic about ourselves, we're pessimistic about others (surprise, surprise).
  • We overestimate everything about ourselves (from how interesting we are to how modest).

Do you see a beautiful, young woman or old lady?
Not So Surprising:

  • The higher our expectations, the happier we are!
  • We're happiest when in anticipation of something -- anticipation enhances our well-being.
  • Optimism makes us want to try harder. Yes.
  • People who are mildly depressed have been found to have a pessimistic outlook; they don't expect much from the future.

Moving forward, I'll continue to be my optimistic self. My health, happiness and dreams for the future expect it of me. What I won't do is ignore cues to change course when needed. It's the wise thing to do.

How would you describe your outlook on life?

Do you wish you could change it?

"The idea behind the self-fulfilling prophecy is that it is not a forecast of a future, but a cause of the event." - Tali Sharot