Realistic Optimism

Realistic Optimism

Posted by Jan Lawrence

Learning Realistic Optimism

Here is an extract from our Developing Personal Resilience training course about learning to become more optimistic.

Highly resilient people have a realistic, optimistic view of the world.  This optimism is not fantastical it is based in reality.  They persist in seeking goals despite obstacles and setbacks.  They tend to operate from hope of success rather than fear of failure.  Setbacks are viewed as due to manageable circumstance rather than personal flaw.

Learning how to become more optimistic

Even the most pessimistic thinker can learn to become more optimistic.  The following 4 steps will help develop a more positive attitude.

Step 1:   Get into the habit of thinking with a positive attitude

Step 2:   Become more aware of your self-talk

What stories do you tell yourself when things start to go wrong?  Negative self-talk without doubt influences our subconscious mind.  The more aware you become of the negative self talk, the better chance you have of reframing and using more of a positive self-talk.

Step 3:   Ask yourself better questions

One of the most effective and quickest ways to improve the quality of your self-talk is to ask yourself better questions.


Instead of asking yourself  “Why does this always happen to me?”

Replace with “What do I need to learn from this situation so it does not happen to me again?”

Instead of asking yourself  “Why am I feeling so depressed?”

Replace with “What do I need to do to have more energy and enthusiasm?”

Regardless of the situation you find yourself in, asking better questions will improve your attitude.  It sounds simple, and it is simple.

Step 4:   Always set positive goals 

Goals are dreams with legs and can be used to create a positive attitude.  Try to always set goals in the positive.

Negative goal: “I will not eat any unhealthy foods and will keep away from sweet things.” 

Positive version:  “I enjoy eating healthy, low calorie foods and will eat this way for the next month.” 

Positive psychology research has found that focussing on a positive goal is much more effective than focussing on a negative goal!


Using a challenging scenario you are familiar with, think about the negative self talk you may have used in the past and write down if you could have asked yourself better questions.

Think about your challenging scenario:

Write down the best case scenario here…


How likely? (1-5)



Write down the worst case scenario here…


How likely? (1-5)






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