Folk wisdom has suggested that some individuals always see ‘blue skies’ while other envision ‘dark clouds’ more often than not. While a few recent scientific studies have supported the idea that some people are more naturally positive thinkers, everyone should be able to improve their ability at this useful skill. Professor Martin Seligman, a leading researcher in the field of Positive Psychology, has proposed that Explanatory Style greatly impacts the way an individual interprets problems.
Seligman suggests that there are three general attributions: Personal, Pervasive, and Permanent. For example, if a pessimist got a ticket for speeding, they might view this one episode as a major failure:
- Personal: I’m stupid; I’m not good at driving. Why do I always go too fast?
- Pervasive: I’m horrible at all aspects of driving. I’m bad at parking and signaling too.
- Permanent: I’ll always fail to obey the speed limit and I will problem lose my license one day, perhaps forever.
A more optimistic view would include the following:
- Not Personal: The speed limit sign was not well posted and anyone could have made this simple mistake of going 10 miles over.
- Not Pervasive: I am a safe, careful driver in most situations. Perhaps I did make big mistake this time; however, it does not impact other parts of my life.
- Not Permanent: This is my first ticket and I can make sure I that I am more careful about going slower in the future.
PTD is an excellent time to do a short self-audit and review your own explanatory style for a variety of personal and professional domains within your life. Then work to avoid the three Ps, if needed.