The 5 Minute Career Coach

Helping Career Changers Around The World

November 2012

Autumn Leaves

Autumn is a very special season because of its wonderful mix of fruitfulness tinged with melancholy and as with so many things in life you will probably have your own particular take on it.

Do you see autumn as a glorious expression of abundance or as a depressing sign of the cold and dark that is to come?

Just considering your habitual reaction to the turn of the seasons can be quite revealing of your underlying attitude, and the way you habitually think about the world and the things that happen around you will have a big impact of the way your life and career unfolds.

Seasons are like many other changes you may face in your life, so how do you see them?

Do you see the changes in the seasons as something positive, hinting at new and different things to come? Or do you cling to what is fading, wishing you could hold on to it and seeing what is to come as worse?

At its simplest, this boils down to whether you generally adopt an optimistic or pessimistic style of thinking.

Take a look at these everyday situations. How do you typically respond?

If something bad happens (eg you are caught out in the rain, you are unsuccessful at interview, you have a row with your partner) do you see it as

  1. Temporary, just a one-off occurrence, probably due to some external event that is outside your control?
  2. Permanent, indicative of the way your life is generally, all your fault?

If something good happens (eg the sun shines all day for your barbeque, you are praised by your boss for a good piece of work, your partner helps clean up after the party without you having to ask) do you see it as

  1. Permanent, the way things generally go for you, the result of some effort or input on your part?
  2. Temporary, a one-off fluke that is unlikely to happen again, purely a chance event that you had no influence over?

OK, we all have up days and down days so you may well respond that ‘it depends on the situation and circumstances’, but on the whole do you find that you are generally optimistic or pessimistic in your attitude? Does this underlying attitude shape the way you tend to think about the events in your life and career and therefore how you interpret them?

Are you a pessimist or an optimist?

You may have been brought up to take a pessimistic view of life. For some reason it is seen as being ‘more realistic’ and it supposedly saves us from disappointments (if you don’t expect much then you won’t be let down).

But the reality is that adopting a pessimistic mindset can have a powerfully negative influence on your health and happiness. It doesn’t just sap your energy for life and lead to underperformance but it has also been directly associated with reduced physical and mental health.

Optimists on the other hand are often more successful because they face setbacks and challenges with positive energy and with a curiosity about what they can learn from their ‘failures’. The two mindsets give off very different energies and determine our expectations of others around us and of life in general.

You get to choose

The key lesson to learn here is that you get to choose your attitude, your thinking and how you see events and situations in your life.

Autumn TreeYes, it may be strongly influenced by your upbringing and by the people who you currently have around you, but at the end of the day, you cannot be forced to think pessimistically. You may have just fallen into the habit of doing so.

In this lovely autumn picture (thank you Moira!) are the clouds on the left coming in or is the day brightening up?

Optimist or pessimist?

Change begins here

How about you make a conscious decision from today to cultivate optimism? It can only do you good. Here are some tips to help you:

  • Create a positive motto for your life
  • Make notes about how optimism will help you in your life and career
  • Be curious about what you can learn from your challenges
  • Find an optimistic role model and reflect on how they would respond to the events you face.
  • Read Martin Seligman’s Learned Optimism – details below!

Something to think about

Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the
world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won’t come in.

~Alan Alda~

The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it
cannot be changed without changing our thinking.

~Albert Einstein~

Cherry Recommends

Learned Optimism

How To Change Your Mind and Your Life

Martin Seligman

Learned OptimismMartin Seligman is one of the Founding Fathers of the Positive Psychology movement and so this book offers you much more than the advice to ‘think positively’.

It is a straightforward and accessible read, containing a number of simple exercises to help you identify your thinking style. At the same time it is grounded in solid psychological research so you know the advice is not of the Pollyanna variety!

Seligman explains how we develop thinking habits based on the lessons of childhood and adolescence and how these habits lead to a circle of thinking affecting feelings which in turn affect behaviours.

He presents the benefits of adopting a more positive approach but acknowledges that it is not always appropriate in every situation. You definitely don’t want an airline pilot to ignore red lights on the control panel with a casual ‘it’ll be fine’ response!

In Part Two of the book, Seligman applies his ideas to different realms of life – work, parenting, school, sports and health and then in Part Three he offers guidelines on how to move from pessimism to optimism.

His core message is that you can change your thinking style and that this will fundamentally improve your life.

With best wishes for your career change success

PS. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness..?

In case you are wondering, it’s John Keats. Read the whole poem here

5MCC Back Issues to April 2012

5MCC Back Issues from May 2012

How To Change Careers Home Page

About the author

Amy Thomas

Leave a Comment