A University of Pittsburgh study has concluded that optimists live longer, healthier lives than pessimists. The study followed 100,000 postmenopausal women over eight years. Those who expected good things to happen rather than bad were 14% less likely to die from any cause and 30% less likely to die from heart disease. If this has you worrying about an early death, you might just be a pessimist who needs a little lucking.
Optimism and pessimism are learned traits that become part of our Knower/Judger rules of life. Predicting bad outcomes is a learned habit, like finishing everything on your plate and loading the toilet paper so it comes off the top of the roll.
In my coaching, I use a concept I call “lucking.” Lucking is the ability to statistically alter one’s fortune. For the most part it is executed by choosing to adjust the K/J rule set from pessimism to optimism.
Impossible, you say? Not at all. But it can be difficult, especially because we are not always optimistic or pessimistic. For instance, I dropped my smoothie on the way from St. Louis Bread Company to my office this morning, right by the front door. But I invested very little in lamenting my misfortune, because my K/J rule is to look on the bright side of life. I’m an optimist in almost every area of my life.
However, readers of this newsletter will know that there is an environment where I have a different K/J rule. On the golf course, I am a pessimist. I played my first 18 holes of the season last week, and my self-talk continuously reminded me that I wasted at least one shot on every hole (bad chip, errant putt, wild tee shot). And my bright-side-of-life response for those? Goddamn!
Finally, after about seven holes, I recognized that my negative self-talk was managing my game and that it was time for a little lucking. I proceeded to shank a few more drives and skate another couple of chip shots across the green. What I didn’t do is go into my goddamn mode. I smiled, convinced myself of my amateur status, enjoyed the beautiful, cloudless 68-degree afternoon with four fabulous guys, and parred the next two holes…then played single-birdie golf through the rest of the round. (Which is real good for me!)
I’ve told other stories about keeping one’s inner pessimist in check. Sometimes it can get totally out of control. The mind starts extrapolating the current level of misfortune into destitution and ruin. “If this happened, then it means that will happen, which will cause another black cloud to form…yadda, yadda, yadda.”
Getting out of that tailspin is a great piece of lucking. You do have a choice in that. If you can actually observe your mind going there, congratulations! There’s hope. At that point you can choose to stop! You can change what you’re looking at, and listening to. Your Learner/Researcher can put the current situation into perspective (something your K/J cannot), and you can change your fortune.
Want to live longer? Choose optimism.