Jon Goldman has published a newsletter suggesting that the solution to many business and personal challenges involves a reframing of your perspectives, from pessimistic to optimistic.
How many natural pessimists do we have amongst our readers? That’s right, you know who you are!
The truth is, pessimism, or what I’ll call Deficit-Based Thinking comes naturally. The human nervous system is hardwired to pick up signals of impending danger more than signals of opportunity.
And even though deficit-based thinking protects us under dire circumstances, it may begin to dominate our thinking. It feeds our thought process, but it’s a diet of starvation.
“Your job, when you drive home, is to take an inventory of what has gone right in your day. Your job at the dinner table is to talk about the progress, the victories, the triumphs.”
-Dr. Kathy Cramer.
Dr. Kathryn Cramer, founder of the Cramer Institute, championed an approach she termed Asset Based Thinking (ABT). One of our top mentors, Lainie Neiman, has been a long time colleague and dear friend of Kathy’s. Lainie often introduces our clients to ABT during their work together.
Deficit Based Thinking (DBT) focuses on:
- What went wrong today.
- What I don’t like.
- What needs to change before I can be happy.
While Asset Based Thinking (ABT) focuses on:
- Opportunities rather than problems.
- Strengths more than weaknesses.
- What can be done instead of what can’t.
ABT says: If you are seeing a “problem,” then you will inevitably think “stress” and feel “overwhelmed.” But if you see “possibility,” you will naturally think “growth” and feel “exhilarated.”
This is not a fantasy approach to life; ABT is a truly rational, down to earth system. It’s based on making a proactive choice to focus on the positive, then follow through in action.
- ABT is not blind optimism or magical thinking.
- ABT is not a quick fix.
- ABT is not based on theory alone…but on direct observation of a growing minority of highly effective and satisfied people.
- ABT is not just positive thinking or attitude …. but a call for positive action.
It’s a concrete, cognitive process aimed at identifying the assets that are immediately available in yourself, other people, and any situation. Think of ABT as a self-reinforcing process-a virtuous cycle that spawns solutions, and DBT as a downward spiral that only makes matters worse.
These are interesting thoughts, and you will find value in relating the advice here if things aren’t going right.
The question that intrigues me is how much of the negative/positive approach relates to underlying character/personality, and how much reflects circumstances we can control.
My wife and I frequently enjoy bantering on this topic: I’m the optimist and she is not-so-optimistic. The dichotomy fortunately results in a healthy balance; we play off each other in making important decisions. (I think I “win” most of the time, but of course my perspectives are somewhat biased.)
One thing is certain: If we don’t have some hope and a vision for better things, I doubt we’ll make much progress. So, let’s be optimistic.