How To Have An Optimistic Family

“Life inflicts the same setbacks and tragedies on the optimists as on the pessimist, but the optimist weathers them better.” Martin E.P. Seligman

Are you an optimist, pessimist, or somewhere in the middle?  Do you feel that who you are must be who you will always be?  Do you desire to be more of an optimist?  Do you desire to raise children who are optimists?  I do. I’ve always been an optimist and Marc calls himself the “realist” some may say pessimist but we can use the term realist if you pessimists feel better about it:)!  As we raise children, I have seen from day 1 who they are.  Some tend to lean more towards optimism and others are more pessimistic on how they view life and circumstances.  We’ve always desired to pass on my optimistic ways of looking at life with a healthy balance of realism from their father to our children.

One of the times in our life when this was most evident is when we were homeless for 4 months and my mother bought us an RV to live in.  Two adults and four kids for months in an RV helps you get to know each other quite well.  We all had our moments but overall I felt this was a great family bonding experience.

In our bonding, I was also able to identify personality differences in my kids and that they were already developing thought patterns and at times negative self talk.

I decided to read more about it to help my kids.  The book that impacted me the most is “Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life” by Martin E.P. Seligman.

I took a quiz to see where I was on the pessimist to optimist scale.  Which you can take here: Learned Optimism Test Offered by Stanford.   You won’t like all the questions but keep going.  The results are interpreted in 3 categories.  You may be optimistic in one but not in another.  This was true for me and helped me realize why I went through a period of depression despite considering myself an optimist.  Here are the 3 categories:

Permanence is the belief that negative events and/or their causes are permanent, even when evidence indicates temporary (“Amy hates me and will never be my friend again” vs. “Amy is angry with me today”; “I’ll never be good at math”).

Pervasiveness is the tendency to generalize negative features (“I’m stupid” vs. “I failed a math test” or “nobody likes me” vs. “Janet didn’t invite me to her party”).

Personalization is whether one tends to attribute negative events to one’s own flaws or to outside circumstances or other people.

If you need help interpreting your results, you can read the book or just send your results to me and I will try and help.

Now for the most helpful lesson I learned from this book!  By far it was his teaching on how to learn optimism and how to help others learn optimism.  I was excited to know that I could change, others can change, and I can help my children be more optimistic.  I’d like to share with you how you too can live with a more positive outlook on life.  That your feelings have so much to do with how you think!  Its learning the ABC’s

  1. Adversity: This is the event big or small.
  2. Belief: These are those immediate thoughts that cross your mind even though you may or may not be consciously aware they are there.
  3. Consequences: The resulting feelings you experience and actions that follow.

I began recording events in my life and watched how the ABC’s played out.  I will be honest about a real life example.  I had a friend get mad at me because she thought I treated another friend badly (Adversity).  My immediate thought was that I had not met my friends needs and should have been better, its my fault (Belief).  This resulted in a period of depression for me including low self esteem and low confidence in my ability to love others (Consequences).  When this negative thought pattern occurred, truth came in through several sources: my husband, God, and personal reflection on past friendships.  This truth freed me from my own lie (that I was not good at loving others). The truth was that I may or may not have been a good friend in that situation but I am a loving person.  I hope this example helps you.

After I did this in my own circumstances and became good at recognizing the belief, which was sometimes lies that needed truth, I wanted to help my kids.  I tried teaching this to my children which helped the oldest a lot but have chosen to integrate the teaching in everyday events.  For example, Brooke wrote a paragraph for school and was really down on herself for not being able to spell several words.  She said things like “I am bad at spelling” and “Callie spells better than me.”  I took her paper and counted all the words she spelled right (20) and I then counted those she spelled wrong (3).  After showing her the truth, her attitude completely changed.  I explained to her the lies that can come into our mind and the need for truth.

“Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Jesus

Its all about perspective!

If you take the quiz, do you mind sharing the results? You can message it to me or post as a comment here.  Will you record your ABC’s today? Where and when do you need to apply truth and where will you go to find it? Are you aware of negative self talk when encountering adversity?  Please share as I would love to hear from you!

The truth is that many days I don’t feel happy about circumstances but I can choose to be positive and see the good around the circumstances.  The perfect example is this story shared by Amber Haring about a 92 year old facing a difficult circumstance herself:

Grandmother chooses her attitude

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