Does A Positive Outlook Actually Make Any Difference?

The author is quick to point out that having a positive outlook is widely regarded as being inherently beneficial and that certain cultures around the world have a greater or lesser degree of positivity (Americans high / Finns lower).

Reality helps avoid a false sense of security
We do tend to have a built in level of pragmatism for everyday risks, such as crossing the road. If you recognise the risk of getting hit while crossing the road, you are more likely to take care than have a false sense of security. However this same pragmatism may instead be replaced by over optimism with health related risks (smoking, drinking, or over eating), career related aspirations (I will get promoted even if I don’t work hard), or gambling (I win at the casino more often than not).

Humans are pre-wired for optimism
When it comes to predicting what we are expecting to happen to us tomorrow, next week or in years to come, humans over estimate the likelihood of positive events and underestimate the likelihood of negative events (according to Neuroscientist Tali Sharot). One of the most consistent findings in modern psychology is that the vast majority of reasoning biases that corrupt our ability to think objectively are self serving biases.

Key Takeaways

  • A positive outlook does make a difference but it is not always good, you need to reflect on the context
  • While we have a level of human pragmatism, we often ignore it when it suits us
  • Humans are pre-wired for optimism which is often driven by a self serving bias
Synopsis of an article published in Forbes
Does A Positive Outlook Actually Make A Difference?
by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic
Published - 30th July 2020

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