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Emerson wrote: "Sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny." The biggest difference between success and failure begins with a thought. When we encounter life's ups and downs, how we choose to interpret these events is more important than the events themselves. We can have an optimistic and hopeful interpretation or a pessimistic and gloomy interpretation. Obviously, optimism is the desired choice, but can it be learned?
Research shows that optimists interpret events differently than pessimists in three fundamental ways: (1) their personal impact; (2) how pervasive or how much of their lives will be affected; and (3) how permanent are the results. For example, when I began my career in pharmaceutical sales, I encountered a great deal of rejection: "The doctor is too busy to meet with you," "I'm not interested," and "Today's not a good time" were frequent responses to my requests to begin a sales dialogue. As you can imagine, this rejection began to take a toll on belief that I had what it takes to be successful in sales.
Being frustrated and having thoughts of quitting sales, I began to look inward to find an answer to one question that kept going through my mind: "What can I do to make the pain I feel every day when I am rejected go away?" In search of a cure, I made my way to the bookstore, where I happened upon the book Learned Optimism that made a profound difference in how I thought about the frequent rejection I experienced: it was not personal; it was not pervasive; and it was not permanent. Realizing that the rejection was not directed at me personally, would not affect other areas of my life, such as personal relationships, and was temporary instilled me with a hope that allowed me to persevere and to become successful.