Optimism as Positive Attitude And Thinking

Optimism is a mental attitude or world view that interprets situations and events as being best (optimized), meaning that in some way for factors that may not be fully comprehended, the present moment is in an optimum state. The concept is typically extended to include the attitude of hope for future conditions unfolding as optimal as well. The more broad concept of optimism is the understanding that all of nature, past, present and future, operates by laws of optimization along the lines of Hamilton’s principle of optimization in the realm of physics.

This understanding, although criticized by counter views such as pessimism, idealism and realism, leads to a state of mind that believes everything is as it should be, and that the future will be as well. A common idiom used to illustrate optimism versus pessimism is a glass with water at the halfway point, where the optimist is said to see the glass as half full, but the pessimist sees the glass as half empty.

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The word is originally derived from the Latin optimum, meaning “best.” Being optimistic, in the typical sense of the word, ultimately means one expects the best possible outcome from any given situation. This is usually referred to in psychology as dispositional optimism. Researchers sometimes operationalize the term differently depending on their research, however. For example, Martin Seligman and his fellow researchers define it in terms of explanatory style, which is based on the way one explains life events.

As for any trait characteristic, there are several ways to evaluate optimism, such as various forms of the Life Orientation Test, for the original definition of optimism, or the Attributional Style Questionnaire designed to test optimism in terms of explanatory style.

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While the heritability of optimism is largely debatable, most researchers agree that it seems to be a biological trait to some small degree, but it is also thought that optimism has more to do withenvironmental factors, making it a largely learned trait.[1] It has also been suggested that optimism could appear to be a hereditary trait because it is actually a manifestation of combined traits that are mostly heritable, like intelligence, temperament and alcoholism.[2] Optimism may also be linked to health.

Explanatory style

Explanatory style is different, though related to, the more traditional, narrower definition of optimism. This broader concept is based on the theory that optimism and pessimism are drawn from the particular way people explain events. There are three dimensions within typical explanations, which include internal versus external, stable versus unstable, and global versus specific. Optimistic justifications toward negative experiences are attributed to factors outside the self (external), are not likely to occur consistently (unstable), and are limited specific life domains (specific). Positive experiences would be optimistically labeled as the opposite: internal, stable, global.[4]

There is much debate about the relationship between explanatory style and optimism. Some researchers argue that there is not much difference at all; optimism is just the lay term for what scientists call explanatory style.[5] Others argue that explanatory style is exclusive to its concept and should not be interchangeable with optimism.[6][7] It is generally thought that, though they should not be used interchangeably, dispositional optimism and explanatory style are at least marginally related. Ultimately, the problem is simply that more research must be done to either define a “bridge” or further differentiate between these concepts.


Philosophers often link concept of optimism with the name of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who held that we live in the best of all possible worlds, or that God created a physical universe that applies the laws of physics, which Voltaire famously mocked in his satirical novel Candide. The philosophical pessimism of William Godwin demonstrated perhaps even more optimism than Leibniz. He hoped that society would eventually reach the state where calm reason would replace all violence and force, that mind could eventually make matter subservient to it, and that intelligence could discover the secret of immortality. Much of this philosophy is exemplified in the Houyhnhnms of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.


The term “panglossianism” describes baseless optimism of the sort exemplified by the beliefs of Pangloss from Voltaire’s Candide, which are the opposite of his fellow traveller Martin’s pessimism and emphasis on free will. The phrase “panglossian pessimism” has been used to describe the pessimistic position that, since this is the best of all possible worlds, it is impossible for anything to get any better. The panglossian paradigm is a term coined by Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin to refer to the notion that everything has specifically adapted to suit specific purposes. Instead, they argue, accidents and exaptation (the use of old features for new purposes) play an important role in the process of evolution.

Some other scientists however argue the implication that many (or most) adaptionists are panglossians is a straw man. Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time Michael Shermer relates Frank J. Tipler to Voltaire’s character Pangloss to show how clever people deceive themselves. Shermer explores the psychology of scholars and business men who give up their careers in their pursuit to broadcast their paranormal beliefs. In his last chapter, added to the revised version, Shermer explains that “smart people” can be more susceptible to believing in weird things.


Optimalism, as defined by Nicholas Rescher, holds that this universe exists because it is better than the alternatives.[8] While this philosophy does not exclude the possibility of a deity, it also doesn’t require one, and is compatible with atheism.[9] The positive psychologist Tal Ben-Shahar uses optimalism to mean willingness to accept failure while remaining confident that success will follow, a positive attitude he contrasts with negative perfectionism.[10] Perfectionism can be defined as a persistent compulsive drive toward unattainable goals and valuation based solely in terms of accomplishment.[11] Perfectionists reject the realities and constraints of human ability. They cannot accept failures, delaying any ambitious and productive behavior in fear of failure again. [12]This neuroticism can even lead to clinical depression and low productivity.[13]

As an alternative to negative perfectionism Ben-Shahar suggests the adoption of optimalism. Optimalism allows for failure in pursuit of a goal, and expects that while the trend of activity will tend towards the positive it is not necessary to always succeed while striving to attain goals. This basis in reality prevents the optimalist from being overwhelmed in the face of failure.[10] Optimalists accept failures and also learn from them, which encourages further pursuit of achievement.[14] Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar believes that Optimalists and Perfectionists show distinct different motives. Optimalists tend to have more intrinsic, inward desires, with a motivation to learn. While perfectionists are highly motivated by a need to consistently prove themselves worthy.


Life Orientation Test (LOT)

Designed by Scheier and Carver (1985), this is one of the more popular tests of optimism and pessimism. There are eight measurements (and an additional four filler items), with four positively (“In uncertain times, I usually expect the best”) and four negatively (“If something can go wrong for me, it will”) worded items.[15] The LOT has been revised twice–once by the original creators (LOT-R) and also by Chang, Maydeu-Olivares, and D’Zurilla as the Extended Life Orientation Test (ELOT). All three are most commonly used because they are based on dispositional optimism, which simply means expecting positive outcomes.[16]

Attributional Style Questionnaire (ASQ)

This questionnaire created by Peterson et al. (1982) is based on the explanatory style definition of optimism. It lists six positive and negative events (“you have been looking for a job unsuccessfully for some time”), and asks the respondents to record a possible cause for the event and rate the internality, stability, and globality of the event.[17] An optimistic person is one who perceives good things happening to them as internal, stable, and global. There are several modified versions of the ASQ including the Expanded Attributional Style Questionnaire (EASQ), theContent Analysis of Verbatim Explanations (CAVE), and the ASQ designed for testing the optimism for children.[16]


Research has emerged showing the relationships between several psychological constructs and health. Optimism is one of these concepts and has been shown to explain between 5–10% of the variation in the likelihood of developing some health conditions (correlation coefficients between .20 and .30),[18] notably including cardiovascular disease,[19][20][21][22][23] stroke,[24]depression,[25][26] and cancer.[21][27][28] Furthermore, optimists have been shown to live healthier lifestyles which may influence disease. For example, optimists smoke less, are more physically active, consume more fruit, vegetables and whole-grain bread, and consume more moderate amounts of alcohol.[29]

The relationship between optimism and health has also been studied with regards to physical symptoms, coping strategies and negative affect for those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and fibromyalgia. It has been found that among individuals with these diseases, optimists are not more likely than pessimists to report pain alleviation due to coping strategies, despite differences in psychological well-being between the two groups.[30] A meta-analysis has confirmed the assumption that optimism is related to psychological well-being: “Put simply, optimists emerge from difficult circumstances with less distress than do pessimists.”[31]

Furthermore, the correlation appears to be attributable to coping style: “That is, optimists seem intent on facing problems head-on, taking active and constructive steps to solve their problems; pessimists are more likely to abandon their effort to attain their goals.”[31] It should be noted that research to date has demonstrated that optimists are less likely to have certain diseases or develop certain diseases over time. By comparison, research has not yet been able to demonstrate the ability to change an individual’s level of optimism through psychological intervention, and thereby alter the course of disease or likelihood for development of disease.

Persuasive Essay on Positive Thinking

Positive thinking is a skill that I believe everyone should master and use as a everyday way of life.First you need to know the law of attraction. From there you can start a new life style that can only really benefit you.

The law of attraction is how positive energy attracts positive energy and negative energy attracts negative energy. There is a man named Morris Goodman I learned about in the book The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne. His story is amazing. Morris Goodman was in a plane crash march of 1981. Morris surrvived the plane crash but was left paralyzed, his spinal cord was crushed, and his diaphram was destroyed which left him unable to breath on his own. He lost the ability to do anything but blink and think*. No one thought he would be much of anything ever again because of the severity of his injuries. Morris did not believe this. He set a goal of walking out of that hospital by Christmas.

All Morris did was focus on breathing, and walking, and being positive, not allowing anyone or anything distract him from his goal. He did, Morris achieved his goal. Doctors were at a loss for explanation, but Morris Goodman walked out of that hospital before Christmas. Morris Goodman is The Maracle Man. He proved that whatever you put your mind to you can do.

The power of positive thinking can benefit everyone in countless ways; increase self esteem, increase confidence, and a more relaxed state of mind. Just to name a few.  You see the consequences of negative thinking everyday. You see it in war and violence, even on the local level. Depression and poverty are often consequences of negative thinking as well.  Could you imagine what the world would be like if the whole world believed they could achieve anything they dream of? Could you imagine what your life would be like if you truely believed you could achieve anything you want? If you are always thinking positive there is no room for the negative. Increase of self esteem, confidence, a more relaxed state of mind will all manifest from just that . This is a skill that I believe everyone can benefit from.

* Some of this info taken from themaracleman.org run by Morris Goodman.

Unhappy Students Need Positive Attitude

Who think that being a student is happy nowadays? A recent survey showed that Hong Kong students are not happy with their lives. Some even have a very negative attitude towards life. The primary cause of their unhappiness is their failure to get good results, to achieve their ambitions and maintain the good relationship with their parents and friends. We should have a better insight on how these affect students.

When students are unable to get good results, they feel unsatisfied. In the exam-oriented educational system, every student strives for an A in every subject. They keep on studying and feel stressed because of the high expectations from parents, teachers and students itself. Excess pressure is counterproductive. When they again fail to get good results, they spend more and more time on studying. Without a good balance between study and relaxation, no matter how hard they study, they end up failing to get what they want. The vicious circle never stops. So, they repeat their failure.

The inability to achieve their ambitions also gives rise to the dissatisfaction of lives. Students usually get a plan for future. However, some of them underestimate or even ignore the difficulties in the plan. When the hardships suddenly turn up, they are incapable of dealing with the problems because they are unprepared. They are not mature enough to handle the problems as well. The unsolved difficulties stop them from achieving their ambitions. They feel frustrated and regard themselves as failures. This ruins their confidence and everything seems out of control in their lives. These are the reasons why they are unhappy with their lives.

Another factor which sparks off the disappointment to life is failing to maintain the good relationship with parents and friends. In teenage, students handle their emotions badly due to the hormone change. They easily lose their temper. When you say another word, they feel it annoying and disturbing. They are less patient to hear what you say. Because of this, the lack of communication finally brings damage to their relationship with parents and friends. Having bad relationships with parents and friends, students are sad and will hide their thoughts. These are the culprits causing the unhappiness in teenagers’ lives. After knowing this, we can find out some ways to help students to get rid of this dire strait and be more positive towards life.

When it comes to academic results, we should bear in mind that everyone has different talents. It is very hard to get an A in every subject. What we can do is to try our best. Putting too much pressure on students is also bad for us. We should strike a good balance between study and relaxation. A balanced lifestyle is good for students to become more positive as well.

How we can achieve our ambitions is to draft a thorough plan, listing the potential difficulties we may face and writing the solutions down. Students will be better prepared when they face up to the problems. Despite the fact that some of the predicaments are totally out of expectation, we can ask for advice. We can ask our parents and teachers. They have more experience and surely can give useful advice.

The key to good relationship is communication. You can share what your feelings, thoughts, happiness and even unhappiness are. Take a deep breath when you feel annoyed and try to listen what others want to tell. You will be more patient to listen. You can talk more about your daily life to your parents as well. They are willing to listen to you. Good relationship builds like this way. Once you are willing to communicate with others, maintaining the good relationship is no longer a difficult task.

Having a positive attitude towards life is crucial, especially for students who are vulnerable to difficulties. This will help them to be easier to accept the difficulties and be optimistic. Negative life attitude brings only frustration, disappointment and unhappiness.

Cite this page

Optimism as Positive Attitude And Thinking. (2016, Dec 19). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/optimism-as-positive-attitude-and-thinking-essay

Optimism as Positive Attitude And Thinking

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