What does "Bright Outlook" mean?

Thesaurus.plus tells me that the two strongest related terms are "positive attitude" and "hopefulness".  Synonyms for all three include:

bullishness buoyancy cheerfulness confidence enthusiasm
great expectations optimism Pollyannaism rosy outlook silver lining 

In his book Thinking Fast and Slow, psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman writes, "Some experimenters have reported that an angry face 'pops out' of a crowd of happy faces, but a single happy face doesn't stand out in a happy crowd.  The brains of humans and other animals contain a mechanism that is designed to give priority to bad news." Add to this the fact that there are so many negative things going on around us every day.  What could be more important than counteracting all this negativity?

In odd contrast to this fact, researchers Margaret Matlin and David Stang in 1978 used the phrase Pollyanna Principle to describe another trend in human thinking: rosy optimism.  In many ways, human thought and language reflect a strong bias toward the positive.  A data-driven study of language suggests this may be the case.

As future posts on this blog will demonstrate, biased thinking either positive or negative can have real costs and consequences.  A study published this year finds that "long-run well-being is higher for realists—those who exhibit long-run accuracy in forecasting their financial outcomes—than for either optimists or pessimists. These effects are not small." The study finds that pessimists have a 37.2% higher level of psychological distress and 21.8% lower life satisfaction rating than realists.  Going too far the other way costs, too, with those demonstrating the most optimistic expectations having an 11.8% higher level of psychological distress and a 13.5% reduction in well-being when compared with realists.   

According to NIH, "Optimism and pessimism are associated with distinct perceptual and cognitive modes. The principal differences are:

  • Selective attention and information processing.
  • A belief (or lack thereof) that one has the power to influence relevant situations, events, and relationships (i.e., locus of control).
  • The general schema one holds for interpreting personal events (i.e., attribution style)." 

What does this all mean?

While hope and optimism are important to counteract the negativity we all face, blind optimism isn't the solution.  Note the keywords in the quote from NIH above: Selective, belief, and attribution.  These are things that can be controlled and modified.  That's the "bright" idea behind Bright Outlook.  Although each of us has inherent and culturally-influenced levels of optimism and pessimism, we can learn how to appraise situations realistically and make decisions that will result in the best outcome: less distress, and higher life satisfaction.  Who could ask for more?  Well, besides world peace, but we can have a positive contribution toward that as well.

For many years, for me Bright Outlook has been more than a business name and a website.  It's my personal mission.  In the coming weeks and months, I'll be sharing my insights and experiences as well as looking for scientific evidence that can help us make the best choices.

Some topics I'll cover include: 

And many more subjects, focusing on the theme Bright Outlook: Not just an attitude.  A skillset that will help you move toward a happier you.

Subscribe to Eddie B's newsletter to get updates: