It doesn’t hurt to be optimistic

Joe joined three people at a golf course to make up the foursome. The three friends teed off, but when Joe hit his first shot, it went directly into the trees. The trio suggested he play a second ball in case he couldn’t find his first one, but Joe shrugged them off and went out to search for his ball.

After 10 minutes, Joe couldn’t find his ball, but he insisted on looking some more. Finally, one of the other golfers said, “Joe, we’re holding everyone up. Why don’t you just drop another ball and take a penalty stroke?”

“All right.” Joe turned and headed for the pro shop.

“Where are you going?” the other golfers asked.

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“I have to buy another ball.”

If you’ve ever played golf, you know Joe had a case of misguided optimism.

As the old saying goes, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

I’ve discovered that it’s just as easy to look for the good things in life as the bad. If you look at the bright side of life, you will never develop eyestrain. In other words, thinking positive has no negative.

American psychologist Martin Seligman, working at the University of Pennsylvania at the time, studied the sales prowess of optimists and equally talented pessimists.

Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. developed a test called the Seligman Attributional Style Questionnaire to sort the optimists from the pessimists when hiring sales personnel. Seligman found that optimists outsold pessimists by 20 percent the first year and by 50 percent the following year.

In his book, “Learned Optimism,” Seligman lists many studies that report optimists are healthier; less likely to give up; more successful in school, on the job and on the playing field; have more successful relationships; and are depressed less often, and for shorter periods of time.

Mary Kay Mueller, in her book, “Taking Care of Me: The Habits of Happiness,” shows how optimism is the best policy. How you look at life can drastically affect how much you enjoy your life. If you have a positive attitude, then you will be considered an optimistic person. If you have a negative attitude, then you will be considered a pessimistic person. Mueller believes an optimistic attitude can be learned, as do I.

She lists the tenets that optimism is based on:

• Bad things do happen in life, but they are temporary.

• Bad things in life are limited in scope.

• People have control over their environments.

She also lists the tenets that pessimism is based on:

• Good things in life are temporary.

• Good things in life are limited in scope.

• People have no control over their environments.

Optimists help create some of the good they come to expect, so they are probably right more than not – and they don’t waste time worrying about what they’re not right about.

This story is a perfect illustration.

David and Steve were friends, but they could never quite agree on anything. “Your problem is you’re a pessimist,” David said one day when they were fishing.

“Oh yeah?” Steve asked. “Prove it!”

“Watch this.” David’s dog Spot was in the boat with them. David snapped his fingers. “Spot! Go back to shore and fetch me a can of beer!”

Spot carefully climbed over the edge of the boat. Then, miraculously, he simply walked across the surface of the water, opened the friends’ beer cooler with his snout, and carried a can of beer back in his teeth – all without getting wet.

“Now what do you say about that?” David asked.

Steve shook his head. “A dog that smart, and he can’t even swim.”

Mackay’s Moral: Optimists don’t care whether the glass is half-full or half-empty – they know they can refill the glass!

Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.” He can be reached through his website, www.harveymackay.com.