Tag Archives: optimism

Happiness Experiment No 39: Write a letter to your future self

One of the positive psychology interventions we learned about on my MAPP course was the idea of the best possible self (BPS). The theory is that you write a letter to a future self imagining that everything has gone according to plan and your life has worked out exactly as you would have wished.  Of course, life doesn’t always go according to plan, but research has shown that setting future goals increases well-being and optimism.  A Canadian schoolteacher, featured in the short video below, asked his pupils to write a letter to a future self 20 years from now, he then posted the letters to his former pupils 20 years later.  20 years is probably too long a time span to plan for what you might be doing but the results are still interesting.  Try writing a letter to a future self one year or 5 years from now and see what happens. You are much more likely to have realised your dreams if you write them down.  I recently found an old journal where I had… Read the rest...

Happiness Experiment No 30: Draw your future

“The capacity for hope is the most significant fact of life. It provides human beings with a sense of destination, and the energy to get started.” Norman Cousins

A very interesting theory I have discovered in the science of positive psychology is hope theory.  C.R. Snyder spent many years researching the theory of hope and its benefits to well-being. Hope is not just wishful thinking or optimisim in the way we say “I hope I will win the lottery.” Hope is a belief that we can change the future for the better, or reach our desired goals. Hope keeps us moving forward when the going gets tough, and helps us to “get back on the horse” when we fall off.  According to Snyder’s theory, hopeful thinking is made up of 3 key elements:

  1. Goals – thinking in a goal-oriented way.
  2. Pathways – finding different ways to achieve your goals.
  3. Agency – believing that you can instigate change.

Snyder found that hopeful

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5 Characteristics Of Grit – How Many Do You Have?


TED talk by Angela Lee Duckworth: The key to success? Grit

This excellent article from Forbes magazine by Margaret M. Perlis looks at the important topic of grit in detail.  It’s a long article so you may need grit to get through it, but it’s definitely worth a read.

Recently some close friends visited, both of whom have worked in education with adolescents for over 40 years. We were talking about students in general and when I asked what has changed with regards to the character of kids, in unison they said “grit” – or more specifically, lack thereof. There seems to be growing concern among teachers that kids these days are growing soft.

When I took a deeper dive, I found that what my friends have been observing in-the-field, researchers have been measuring in the lab. The role grit plays in success has become a topic du jour, spearheaded by Angela Duckworth, who was catapulted to the forefront of the field after delivering

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21 Habits of Supremely Happy People

This article by  which was published in The Huffington Post on 16th September is a great summary of some happiness habits which are definitely worth acquiring.  Enjoy!

happiness habits

Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, theorizes that while 60 percent of happiness is determined by our genetics and environment, the remaining 40 percent is up to us.

In his 2004 Ted Talk, Seligman describes three different kinds of happy lives: The pleasant life, in which you fill your life with as many pleasures as you can, the life of engagement, where you find a life in your work, parenting, love and leisure and the meaningful life, which “consists of knowing what your highest strengths are, and using them to belong to and in the service of something larger than you are.”

After exploring what accounts for ultimate satisfaction, Seligman says he was surprised. The pursuit of pleasure, research determined, has hardly any contribution

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Is optimism all it’s made out to be?

As a die-hard optimist, although I think of myself as a realistic rather than idealistic one, I am always interested to hear author people’s views on optimism.  This excellent Fast Company article by Buffer co-founder Leo Widrich takes a look at how optimism has played a role in his business success.



General Stockdale was held captive for eight years during the Vietnam War. After being tortured 22 times and losing many friends in prison, he eventually made it out alive.

A few decades later, Jim Collins, author of the famous book Good to Great interviewed Stockdale about his experiences as a prisoner of war. Stockdale gave lots of insightful answers about how he managed to survive torture, starvation, and other horrible conditions.

One line that stuck with me

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Older people are happier

Want to live to a ripe old age?  Having a positive outlook on life maybe the key to doing just that. The article below from CBS News looks at how optimism can lead to longevity.  The TEDxWomen talk below by psychologist Laura Carstensen shows that not only does being optimistic make you live longer, but research shows that you also become happier and more content as you get older and are likely to have a more positive outlook on the world.  Living to an old age does not mean that your quality of life has to diminish, on the contrary it is likely to increase.  Enjoy the article and the video and let me know what you think.


Researchers discover optimism may lead to longevity

The secret to a long life may be something as simple as a sunny disposition.

In a study published in the journal Ageing on May 21, researchers surveyed people who were over the age of 95 and found that most of them had positive personality traits, making them upbeat and relaxed

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Self help: forget positive thinking, try positive action

Self help: forget positive thinking, try positive action

The self-help industry is mired in ideas about positive thinking that are at best ineffective and at worst destructive. If you want to be more confident or successful, says Richard Wiseman, the best thing to do is act the part.

self-help graphic

For years self-help gurus have preached the same simple mantra: if you want to improve your life then you need to change how you think. Force yourself to have positive thoughts and you will become happier. Visualise your dream self and you will enjoy increased success. Think like a millionaire and you will magically grow rich. In principle, this idea sounds perfectly reasonable. However, in practice it often proves ineffective.


Rip It Up: The radically new approach to changing your life: The Simple Idea That Changes Everything
  1. Tell us what you think: 

Take visualisation. Hundreds of self-improvement books encourage readers to close their eyes and imagine

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The Amazingly Positive Life of Michael J. Fox.

“People talk about me being a paragon of optimism and hope and all that stuff. I have a really blessed life, I have an amazing life.” Michael J. Fox

In this feature for ABC News published on 18th June 2012, Russell Goldman looks at the actor Michael J. Fox who I mentioned in a previous post as being a poster boy for optimism.   Read the article and watch his interview with ABC’s news anchor Diane Sawyer who featured him as her “Person of the Week” in her Friday night World News programme.

Michael J. Fox Looks Past Stem Cells in Search For Parkinson’s Cure

Michael J. Fox, whose turn from Parkinson’s disease patient to scientific crusader made him one of the country’s most visible advocates for stem cell research, now believes the controversial therapy may not ultimately yield a cure for his disease, he told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in an exclusive interview.

There have been “problems along the way,” Fox said of stem cell studies,

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Happiness is a glass half empty

Following on from yesterday’s post about the Oliver Burkeman event organised by Action for Happiness, today’s Guardian features a longer article covering some of the theories in his new book The Antidote.

Happiness is a glass half empty

Be positive, look on the bright side, stay focused on success: so goes our modern mantra. But perhaps the true path to contentment is to learn to be a loser


Article by 


Half-empty glass

Are we maybe just looking for happiness in the wrong way? Photograph: Aaron Tilley for the Guardian

In an unremarkable business park outside the city of Ann Arbor, in Michigan, stands a poignant memorial to humanity’s shattered dreams. It doesn’t look like that from the outside, though. Even when you get inside – which members of the public rarely do – it takes a few moments for your eyes to adjust to what you’re seeing. It appears to be a vast and haphazardly

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The Optimism Bias

I discovered Tali Sharot at this year’s TEDx Observer event in London and was struck by the importance of her fascinating studies.  I immediately purchased her book “The Optimism Bias” which I highly recommend.  If you do not have time to read the whole book and would like to read an extract take a look at this article from TIME magazine. You can also watch Tali Sharot’s TED talk in this video. Enjoy!

We like to think of ourselves as rational creatures. We watch our backs, weigh the odds, pack an umbrella. But both neuroscience and social science suggest that we are more optimistic than realistic. On average, we expect things to turn out better than they wind up being. People hugely underestimate their chances of getting divorced, losing their job or being diagnosed with cancer; expect their children to be extraordinarily gifted; envision themselves achieving more than their peers; and overestimate their likely life… Read the rest...