02 03 Notes from the School Psychologist: Optimism 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33


A few weeks ago, I packed up my work bag, my coffee mug, and my lunch for the day, and headed outside to get in my not-car. It had been stolen. I turned around, went inside, dropped off all my stuff (except of course I was still clutching my coffee mug. I was going to need it), and I called the police. They arrived by the time I had finished my coffee and called in to work that I would be excruciatingly late.

As I took the bus, then a train, then a bus, then walked to work, I had a lot of time to reflect on my possible reactions. At this point, the pessimist in me could have thrown a fit, cursed the world, and shook my tiny fist of fury at the injustice. The optimist in me could have declared that it was time to get a new car anyway. I stood at the precipice of making a choice as to how this would play out.

Luckily, I had just read an article on optimism that inspired me. It said basically that more than any other major personality trait, optimism is a matter of practice. So I thought I would work on the cognitive habit of developing an optimistic mind-set, like the article said to do. It stated that the key to increasing optimism was to understand that it’s not just “positive thinking” alone, but also engagement and persistence toward one’s goals and paying attention to good fortune. What luck! My car was stolen! I thought of several positive things:

1) I am saving the world from the perils of greenhouse gasses today.
2) I was not IN the car when it was stolen.
3) They may find my car.
4) If not, then I get to go shopping, and who doesn’t like shopping?

Turns out, they did find my car the next day, stripped of all parts. But the cop must have also read the article, because he was glad to report the good news that my car was “not burned!” Goodie! It was hard to be optimistic about a not-burned, but totally stripped car returning to my possession.

But as the article said, I should persist in my goal, which was really to obtain a vehicle to drive to work, and focus on the good fortune that someone did not burn my car*. The next day, I went to go see Oscar** and he looked so sad! All of his lights were popped out so he looked blind. There wasn’t much car left. Then they told me that he would be totaled. I was sad for like 45 minutes and then I got a newer car I had been lusting after the next day. And it has an iPod hookup, so I’ve been listening to Spanish Podcasts all week. So really, don’t you think the thieves did me a favor? After all, I will probably be bilingual because of them.

Or maybe I’m just trying to be optimistic because now I have a car payment.

*Am I the only one who didn’t know this was common practice?
**What? Like you don’t name your car. Mine was Oscar deLa Honda and apparently a very popular year for thievery.


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