They kept in touch as much as possible, but grew apart throughout the years. Mary was very happy and had a positive attitude. When life threw her lemons, she made buckets of sweet, delicious lemonade.
Judy, on the other hand, was unhappy and complained about everything. She often thought to herself and out loud, “Why is life so unfair, nothing good ever happens for me?”
When the two best friends got together, Judy spent the whole time talking about how awful her life was. Mary loved Judy so she patiently listened and even tried to offer some advice.
Judy usually ignored any advice and continued complaining. Eventually when Mary got a word in to share what was happening in her life, Judy would not listen or she would respond in a negative way.
One day, Mary called Judy to tell her that her cookbook was being featured on a popular cooking channel. Judy said in a jealous and negative tone, “Wow, you have always been lucky. Everything good always happens to you, while my life sucks.”
Mary was hurt by Judy’s response and politely ended the conversation. In the past, Mary used to feel guilty that Judy’s life was so hard. That is until Mary came to terms with the fact that she was not responsible for Judy’s happiness so she shouldn’t feel guilty.
If Judy wanted to be happy, Mary couldn’t do it for her. Judy would have to create her own happiness by changing her outlook on life. The end.
I think many of us have met somebody like Judy or maybe we have been in Judy’s shoes before. In previous blogs, I have written about our Happiness Set Point, which is determined by 50% of our biology, 40% of our actions, and 10% of circumstances.
While these friends grew up in similar circumstances, their perspectives on life and set points were totally different. At the risk of overstating the obvious, let me point out that Mary was optimist and Judy was pessimist.
According Martin Seligman, the author the book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, our happiness and well-being depends on our ability to be optimistic. The good news is that we can learn to be optimistic, if we choose to do that. So what is the difference between an optimist and pessimist? Here is a chart to explain that:
Final Happy Thoughts
As we look back to the story of Mary and Judy, the optimist and pessimist, here are some points that I’d like you to walk away with.
- Life happens to everybody, we are not lucky to be happy. We either are happy or not. Luck has only little to do with it.
- Negativity can be so powerful that it can lessen our experience in life. We can miss out on so much by being negative.
- Positivity requires some practice. Once you have conditioned your brain to respond this way, it becomes easier.
- It is important to notice how we communicate to ourselves. In Judy’s example, her thoughts were very destructive and kept her in a position as helpless victim. Being kind to ourselves, even as life happens is key!
- And this is the hardest point, sometimes we have to let go of the negative people in our lives. Especially, if they attempt to make us feel bad for doing well in life, while their life is not great.
If you are curious about whether you are an optimist or pessimist, you can take an assessment on the Authentic Happiness website.
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