Believe you are a powerful force in your future,
and act accordingly

by Sharon S. Esonis, Ph.D.

“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so. If you assume there is an instinct for freedom, there are opportunities to change things, there’s a chance you may contribute to making a better world. The choice is yours.”

Noam Chomsky

With the advent of the Positive Psychology movement, there has been a great deal of interest in the topic of optimism. Voluminous and robust research has brought wonderful news indeed. Not only does an optimistic approach provide amazing benefits, but it can be learned by anyone… yes, even by dyed-in-the-wool, lifelong pessimists!

Optimism has been shown to generate improved physical and mental health, longevity, performance excellence, creativity and success in attaining goals and dreams. According to Professor Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania, optimism even plays a significant role in the outcomes of professional sporting events and Presidential elections.

Developing the strength of optimism is a powerful way to increase the opportunities and successes in your life. In my professional training and experience, I’ve become convinced that working with clients on the cognitive and behavioral components of optimism can be life altering. The process is enjoyable with results often occurring within a short period of time.

What is this promising elixir? Optimism is a belief system with three major components: first, the belief in your own power to make your life and your future better; second, the belief that negative events in your life are not permanent, personal or pervasive; and third, the belief that positive events in your life are permanent, personal and pervasive.

Permanent refers to the lasting effects of an event. If you make a mistake, fail at some task or encounter an obstacle, do you tell yourself that this is not going to go away or change, that this problem is permanent? Or do you, as the optimist, tell yourself that this too will pass? If something positive happens, do you tell yourself it’s temporary, or as the optimist, you tell yourself that it will have a permanent and positive effect on your future?

Personal refers to your interpretation of who is responsible for the event and why it happened. If you’re besieged by a negative event, do you believe you’re a victim or that you brought this terrible thing upon yourself? Or, as the optimist, do you believe bad things happen to everyone, that your response to them is what will make the difference in the future? If something positive happens, do you tell yourself that this is a fluke, or as the optimist, do you tell yourself that you had a lot to do with this welcome occurrence?

Pervasive pertains to your belief about how other parts of your life will be affected by the event. In the case of a negative event, do you believe this will have a counterproductive influence on other aspects of your life, or as the optimist, believe that the effect is relative only in the context in which it occurred? If a positive event occurs, are you convinced that the results will be beneficial only in this specific instance, or as the optimist, do you think that the sunshine will spread to other aspects of your life?

Optimism is about positive, can-do beliefs, expectations, choices and strategies, about knowing you are responsible for your life and that you have the ability to be effective on your own behalf. The optimist learns all he can from adversity and then propels himself forward toward his goals and vision. The optimist takes credit for the things he has accomplished, savors the victories, and utilizes them as fuel for the ongoing journey toward dreams and discovery.

About Positive Psychology

The field of Psychology has taken a right turn! In addition to its longtime goal of understanding and treating psychological problems, it is now in the business of scientifically studying optimal human functioning and the skills that lead to creating, enhancing and maintaining personal and professional well-being. At last, the field is paying special attention to the strengths that help us design and achieve a life filled with joy and purpose, a life imbued with hope, energy, self-confidence and personal achievement, a life in which we're able to weather the inevitable storms with grace and resilience.

This right turn is called “Positive Psychology,” and it’s about the Good Life. The individual primarily responsible for igniting this movement is Martin Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a past president of the American Psychological Association (APA). During his tenure as president, he heralded “Positive Psychology” as the APA theme of the year. And since then, there has been a groundswell of attention and energy devoted to the empirical study of the strengths that lead to the Good Life. So very exciting!

Positive Psychology is an approach that focuses on what’s right with an individual, what strengths already exist and to what degree. It addresses these strengths in the pursuit of one’s goals and dreams. It helps an individual define the effective and ineffective aspects of his or her attitude. It presents empirically-validated methods to cultivate the strengths that are empowering in terms of individual fulfillment.

The following strengths are important keys in the quest to achieve one's vision and dreams:

Courage: facing your fears and taking the risks necessary for success

Optimism: believing you are a powerful force in your future

Persistence: developing patience, discipline and endurance to succeed

Living in the Present: living every moment to the optimum

Enthusiasm: achieving/maintaining a vigorous level of excitement

Resilience: bouncing back from serious adversity

More information on optimism and the techniques that can help build this strength is available in the e-book, The Strength of Optimism, at, and in the soon to be published book available at, It’s Your Little Red Wagon... 6 Core Strengths for Navigating Your Path to the Good Life.

Author's Bio: 

Sharon S. Esonis has spent the better part of three decades helping individuals live their dreams through her work as a licensed psychologist, life coach and author. An expert in human behavior and motivation, Dr. Esonis specializes in the burgeoning field of Positive Psychology, the scientific study of optimal human functioning and the core strengths that can lead to the achievement of one’s personally-defined goals – what we call “the good life.”

Dr. Esonis earned her bachelor and masters degrees at Ohio University and her doctoral degree at Boston College. While at BC, she studied under a preeminent psychologist who was renowned in the field of Cognitive Behavior Therapy and an early proponent of the Positive Psychology movement.

Dr. Esonis is licensed in psychology in Arizona and Massachusetts, and in addition to her many years of private practice as a clinician and coach, she supervised masters and doctoral students in their clinical work at Arizona State University. She has served as a hospital staff psychologist and has lectured on topics ranging from stress management, meditation and relaxation training to assertiveness and sleep management. Today, her private practice in San Diego is dedicated exclusively to personal and professional coaching.

Her book, It’s Your Little Red Wagon... 6 Core Strengths for Navigating Your Path to the Good Life, is Sharon Esonis’ contribution to the field of Positive Psychology, presenting proven success factors and strength-building techniques that can lead individuals to a life of purpose, motivation and personally-defined happiness.

Dr. Esonis is a member of the American Psychological Association (APA), the Association for Behavior and Cognitive Therapy (ABCT), the San Diego Professionals Coaches Alliance (SDPCA) and is a Founding Member of the Centre for Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP).