We all recognise that we have that little voice inside our head telling us whether something is good or bad, whether we will cope or not cope and whether we have the skills or believe we don’t.
Martin Seligman (father of positive psychology) described explanatory style as “the manner in which you habitually explain to yourself why events happen” (Seligman, 1990)
We also need to recognise that:
“A belief is just a thought that we keep on having”
You may have heard me speak about our ANTs crawling all over us – these are our Automatic Negative Thoughts. We often can engage in – Catastophising, Black and White thinking, Mind Reading, Globalising, Should and Must Thinking – just to name a few. We have these automatic voices in our head telling us we can or can’t do something.
The opportunity we have is to manage these ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts) and train them to be PETS – our Performance Enhancing Thoughts.
Our explanatory style is the next step to better understanding these and it helps us to identify if we are being more pessimistic or more optimistic in our thinking.
To do this we can think about the 3 Ps.
This relates to what you believe is the cause of something, e.g. imagine you didn’t secure a new contract you had been bidding for.
-A pessimist would interpret the cause as personal (“I failed”)
-An optimist allows for non-personal factors (“It just wasn’t the right fit”)
This relates to the perception of time, e.g., do you perceive a result as permanent or temporary?
-A pessimist will interpret setbacks as permanent (“I’ll never get better at this”)
-An optimist sees the setback as temporary (“I haven’t prepared as well as I could have, I have an opportunity to be more prepared for this challenge”)
This relates to the perception of space, e.g. Do you perceive that if you do poorly in one area that this means you will do poorly in every area?
-A pessimist see setbacks as all-pervasive (“Nothing I do ever works out for me”)
-An optimist will see the setback as specific to one are of life (“At least I did well to secure those two other contracts this month”)
So just imagine, you apply for a new job with lots more responsibility, and also more financial reward and you apply for the new role with significant enthusiasm. Consider the two potential responses if you were unsuccessful for the role.
Glass half empty: “The reason I missed out on the role is that I wasn’t good enough (personal) and I will never get another job (permanent) and this just ruins all my plans (pervasive).
Glass half full: “Someone else was obviously more suited to the role (non-personal), there are going to be other roles for me (temporary) and now I can consolidate my skills and gain more training and spend time with my family (non-pervasive).
So, which are you? Do you let your ANTs crawl under your skin and feel your glass is always half empty? How could you train your ANTs to be PETs and enhance your optimism?
Want to manage your ANTs and develop more optimism regarding your skills and abilities? Contact Michelle on 0412047590 or via michelle@bakjacconsulting.