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Turn Fears and Worries into Constructive Thoughts & Actions

Worries and fears are a part of life, but optimists know the importance of fighting negative beliefs and in investing worry time in constructive action. Contrary to the myth that optimists tend to deny reality, research suggests that that optimists are realists. Why? Because of their track record of overcoming obstacles they want to know the problems they face, so they can get busy overcoming them.

In The Optimism Advantage, we look at Martin Seligman’s “Optimism Technique” which focuses on arguing with one’s negative beliefs. It’s what we say to ourselves in the face of adversity that has consequences—Our beliefs about adversity impact our feelings and actions. So what can you do?

Start by attacking your worries with Evidence. Don’t go with the selected news reports you see on television; check the facts to keep perspective. I live in Los Angeles. We have mud slides, fires, and earthquakes. If you looked at the news coverage on TV, you’d assume all of LA was in shambles. The camera is set up to capture the worst angle and keep showing it in the background as newscasters hype the disaster.

A George Washington University study monitoring 100 nights of the evening news documented 8,600 negative to 370 positive news items. We’re grossly over-informed about the bad news and poorly informed about what is working and how to succeed.

What are the true chances of being impacted by an earthquake? We’ve had no increase in the frequency of earthquakes; we just cover them better. The chances of dying from a fall in your home is far greater than dying from an earthquake. Check the facts and it can help you keep perspective.

Look into the usefulness of worry. In five years, is this going to be important. Can you translate your fear or worry into action. If you can’t write down something in your to-do-list that may alleviate the problem, you are wasting time.

Count on your faith to bring you perspective and peace. God may not stop bad things from happening, even to good people, but God can make you stronger to handle whatever happens. I like the words of St. Ignatius, “Act as if everything depends on you. And pray as if everything depends on God.”

Instead of watching on TV things you can impact, get involved locally in making a difference. In The Optimism Advantage, we identify the depression of our age as “Learned helplessness”—nothing I do is going to make any difference in what happens to me, so I might as well wait until they it happens to me. The world today teaches people to feel powerlessness.

We used to be a powerful people because our news was limited to our community—you could fix what you heard or read about. Now, we watch daily distant disasters that are brought to our TV within seconds. We play “isn’t that awful” and watch powerless to change things. Stop watching continuous news coverage and start getting involved making a difference in your community. When you do, you will have more confidence in overcoming the adversities that come your way.

Choose optimism and work to trade your worries and fears into constructive actions. Thankfully, as Lincoln said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” Take it one day at a time.

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