Founder Story: Hope
When you start a company, you create a thousand opportunities for things to go wrong, and along with them, a thousand opportunities to fear each failure might be universal, to fear each failure might be permanent, and to think each failure is because you’re not good enough.
When we started Bodhi Band, I felt all of those things. Any time customers weren’t signing up or canceled their membership, it was hard to not think, “Is this because the program isn’t good enough? Is it because nobody wants this? Is this never going to work?”
My cofounders and I toiled for years, attacking each of those problems. And if we had let pessimism set in, we wouldn’t have made it. The key was to remain an impartial observer. It wasn’t our fault if it wasn’t working, it just meant we needed a different approach. It wasn’t permanent if it wasn’t working, it just meant we needed to keep trying. And one failure didn’t mean the whole thing won’t work, it just meant we needed to fix that one area.
Those pitfalls are very common. In fact, they’re what Dr. Martin Seligman calls the two “explanatory styles” of the optimism/pessimism spectrum, which he outlines as having three dimensions:
- Permanence - How long-lasting the cause of the adversity is perceived to be.
- Pervasiveness - How wide-spread the cause of the adversity is perceived to be.
- Personalization - To what degree we perceive faults within ourselves as causing adversity.
How do you fare on the above three dimensions? Do you find yourself on the pessimistic side of one or all of them? The good news is you can train yourself to be optimistic. It’s free and it’s probably the single best thing you can do for yourself in your life.
Next time you catch yourself battling with adversity, pay attention to how you assess the three dimensions and where you fall on the spectrum of explanatory style. Where you’re not happy with the answer, ask yourself, “Why do I feel that way? Is this belief helping me or hurting me? Is there evidence that’s causing me to form that belief? Or am I just being negative? What else could be causing this to happen to me? What’s the more positive way to look at this?”
I'm confident that with a little bit of practice, you'll get there. Before long, exercising the right explanatory style will be second nature to you.