Optimism Part 2

As I started to see that Christ was sustaining me all my days, the outcomes of good and bad became less important to me. But that was just the beginning.

One day I read a blog (I don’t remember who wrote it). I thought to myself, “That’s me.”  Essentially, the blog said this.  When things go bad, a lot of people form some beliefs.  And those beliefs have consequences.  And often those consequences consumed us.

The simple example is this.  While driving to work one day, I got cut off by another driver.  I couldn’t help but take it personally, as if I were the target of this person’s aggressive driving.  And so I got mad.  I even yelled some unkind words at him.  And when I got to work, I was in a bad mood.  Sound familiar?

Do you see the pattern?  Adversity.  Belief. Consequences.  A-B-C. If you live in this pattern, the consequences of your beliefs can be a very compelling emotional downer.    But the blog went on to say this.  Most of the time, this pattern is wrong.  In fact, it is mostly a learned behavior, and you can unlearn it.

Adversity-Belief-Consequences happen.  But if you add a simple step, you can change your beliefs and the consequences.  The adversity is the same, but the outcomes are different. This extra step results in a subtle yet very powerful mindset change.  The fourth step is this: Dispute your beliefs.

Remember that guy who cut me off?  What if I had disputed by belief?  He was late.  His wife was in the hospital.  He was a jerk.  He didn’t see me.  I was in the wrong place, and it was just simple coincidence. If I had done that, I would have put some perspective on the adversity, and the consequences would have been a lot different.  Really, I would not have gotten mad at all, because the reality was that his driving had nothing to do with me.

As I started this process of disputing my beliefs, I began to see that my beliefs were more often than not fabrications of reality. And my beliefs drove some serious consequences.  Anger, sadness, frustration, a lack of self esteem.  As I began to rationalize myself out of these negative beliefs, to dispute my beliefs, I began to feel energized.  I saw things differently.   And getting energized was the last step in my new thinking pattern. A-B-C-D-E.

It took patience and effort to change my mindset. And prayer.  And effort.  But I knew deep down this was what God wanted of me.  He wanted me to see things differently.  As His creation, he wanted me to radiate His love, His joy and His hope.

I have been very careful to dispute and check my “facts” before the consequences have had a chance to settle in. Admittedly, I am sometimes well into the negative consequences before I catch myself and do some serious disputation.  For example, last year I didn’t get a promotion I really thought I deserved, and my employer hired an external candidate.  The spin out of control beliefs began quickly– I was not that good, I was going to be fired soon, I would never be a valuable senior staff member, etc. But within a day or two of learning of this adverse event, I really started to question my beliefs.  And when I was really honest with myself, I saw the truth:  I was not ready for the next role.   I was a little sad, but I saw that I had other talents the organization needed.  In fact, the person hired has genuinely turned out to be a great boss, and I have learned a lot and grown even more.

As I started to learn optimism (and it is called Learned Optimism, by the way; a quick ‘Net search and you’ll find it) I genuinely saw my attitudes, my energy, and my focus change. In fact, my sister-in-law gave me a shirt for my birthday earlier this month.  It had a picture of a glass with water in it… the caption said, “Half Full.”

Half full.  And ready to be filled. In fact, ready to be overflowing.  Overflowing with Him.