|Not long ago, I came across a book entitled “Breaking Murphy's Law: How Optimists Get What They Want from Life - and Pessimists Can Too,” written by a psychology professor from the University of Kentucky, Dr. Suzanne C. Segerstrom.
I haven't read the book, so I cannot review it. However, it was others’ reviews of the book that prompted this article.
Here are a couple of brief excerpts from the reviews posted on Amazon Inc.:
First, the positive review written in 2006 from a self-described optimist: “Being an optimist myself, I took a chance on the book, and am I glad that I did. Admittedly, at first, some of the cited studies and findings seemed familiar from the media. But gratefully that turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg for what in every way is an in-depth, thorough review of this all-important topic. The author's tone is both professional and personable, and especially in the footnotes, funny.
Cover to cover the author's a great reading companion and this is especially a perfect end-of-summer or autumn read that will help you to see the brighter, sunny side of life even if optimism doesn't come naturally to you. The message of the book is ultimately encouraging for those who aren't born optimists.”
Another featured one written three years later by someone who just might be considered a pessimist:
“I respect the author's intelligence and research on the subject of optimism. The book is mainly a compilation of statistics from studies performed to show how optimists and pessimists approach life differently. If you are interested, as a psychologist perhaps, in the phenomenon of optimism, then this will be an enjoyable read. However, if you are a pessimist looking for ways to change your nature, you will have to read a very long time in this book before anything close to advice is given.”
I couldn't help but be amused by the obvious contrast in the perspectives.
These two reviews reminded me of the phrase often attributed to President Abraham Lincoln, “I reckon a man is about as happy as he makes up his mind to be.”
The author’s point is this: Even if a person is not inherently inclined to be an optimist, it is possible to intentionally alter one’s view of life and events to a more philosophically positive one.
Segerstrom studies personality for a living. Her whole career is devoted to understanding how people think and how those thoughts impact their lives, as well as others.
I would think it would be natural for her to infuse some research that might reflect her clinical interests into the telling of her story. It sounds like this is the case.
Much research has gone into observation of how a person’s view of their environment and circumstances affects their behavior. In general, studies have borne out that having a positive view of life tends to not only improve one's inner mood but also positively impacts their relationships.
I certainly have observed that in my life.
But then, I tend to be very optimistic.
A more pessimistic person might walk in my shoes and determine that it doesn’t make a bit of difference what he thinks – life is going to happen as it does.
So, if you are an optimist, you already have the opinion that life works out better when approached with a positive attitude.
If you are a pessimist, you won’t be convinced of that.
However, if you are somewhere in between, deciding to intentionally look on the bright side will likely prove very beneficial for you.