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Leap! The Net Will Appear: Secrets of Optimistic Power


ruce Christopher has degrees in psychology and interpersonal communication. He is a practicing psychologist, speaker and trainer with over 20 years of experience. He is a highly sought after speaker and humorist who believes when you’re laughing, you’re learning and presented a keynote lecture at the 2010 Seattle Study Club Symposium about optimism. Mr. Christopher began his presentation by asking how many optimists were in the audience. After observing the overwhelming number of hands that were raised, he asked how many people talk to themselves. He then wanted to know how many ever heard voices answering them. These people were advised to see a shrink right away. The truth is, we all talk to ourselves—this is what we call attitude. Your attitude is the most important thing about you. Every one of us has one, and we are each in control of whether it is good or bad. Mr. Christopher maintains that if you have a bad attitude for too long, you become a difficult person. They say that one out of every three people is “difficult,” so if you are with two other people and neither of them is difficult, it must be you.

The Most Important Thing

The Power of Your Attitude Why should you be an optimist? Mr. Christopher presented three persuasive reasons: 1. Attitude predicts success. In the past, psychologists predicted “success” on a person’s IQ score. It turns out there is actually no statistical basis for this. Another theory was that if a child earns good grades in school, they will be successful in life. The truth, which Mr. Christopher advised not to share with children, is that there is no statistical evidence showing success in school predicts success in life. Dr. Martin Seligman, who wrote the book Learned Optimism, has studied the differences between optimists and pessimists for over 25 years. He has found that pessimists get sick more, have a higher divorce rate and make less money in life when compared to optimistic people. Mr. Christopher shared a study from Dr. Seligman’s book that followed 1500 people. 83% of these people chose their career to make


The most important thing about you is not what happens to you, but how you talk to yourself about what happens to you. Success in life is simply how you interpret things. Mr. Christopher shared a story of identical twins. These siblings were exactly the same in every way except for their personality. One twin was an optimist who was always known to say; “everything’s coming up roses,” while the other was a hopeless pessimist. The parents were worried about their boys and took them to a psychologist who proposed a treatment plan that seemed a little unconventional. He advised the parents to wait for their birthday and put them in separate rooms to open their presents. They were to use all the

money that they could scrape together on gifts for the pessimist boy. He was to get the best new toys and video games and the optimist was to receive a box of manure. The parents followed the psychologist’s advice and listened as each boy opened his presents. The pessimist lamented as he opened his gifts; saying that he didn’t like the Play Station 3, the toy car wasn’t big enough and the video game would probably break. The complaints went on and on with each lavish gift. Moving over to the optimist’s room, the parents found a giggly and gleeful boy tossing manure in the air. He looked at his dumbfounded parents and said: “You guys can’t fool me! Where there’s this much crap there’s got to be a pony!” This is not a true story, but the parable illustrates the point beautifully. When most of us see piles of icky stinky gooey stuff we see just that; icky stinky gooey stuff. However, an optimist looks for the hidden pony. Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Your answer to that question will determine so much of you personal practice, your relationships and your success.


Symposium 2010: Bruce Christopher


money and 17% chose their career because they loved the field. Seligman and his colleagues followed these people for 20 years and 101 of them became millionaires. Of these 101 millionaires only one came from the “make money” group. The other 100 were all people who chose a career in a field they were passionate about. Dr. Seligman says that money is only one aspect of these people’s success. Optimists are healthier, handle stress better, have better relationships and achieve more success overall than pessimists. 2. Attitude shapes your mood. Attitude is how you think. Mood is how you feel. To illustrate this point Mr. Christopher introduced the audience to two people he carries with him in his laptop everywhere he goes; person A and person B. Imagine these people are both account reps that have appointments with you. They are on their way to your office when they hit a huge traffic jam that will make them late. If you could listen in to person A’s self-talk, you’d hear him ranting about how angry his boss is going to be, he’ll be fired, bad things always happen in threes so something else bad is obviously coming and this is just going to be a horrible day. Mr. Christopher calls these people “awfulizers” or “catastrophisers.” They get caught in a traffic jam and next thing you know, they believe their family is going to end up living on the street. Person B tells herself the traffic jam is something she can’t control and decides to take the opportunity to slow down, open the sunroof and catch some rays. The only difference between Person A and Person B is their self-talk. Your self-talk is one of the only things in life over which you truly have control. The things that happen to you don’t cause your emotional state. It’s how you talk to yourself about these things that determines your emotions.


3. Attitude is contagious. Everyone in your practice has a communicable disease. We’re not talking H1N1 here, but rather that patients pick up the attitude of your practice within ten seconds of walking in the door. Basically, the attitude you give someone is exactly what you get back. Your tone can transform your message: “Why did you do that?” vs.

“Why did you do THAT?” These are the same words, yet two totally different questions. You can walk into a practice that is as quiet as a morgue with people tip-toeing around the doctor, or one where you hear people laughing in the background. In the second practice, everyone is happy and it feels like a party. This conveys the overall attitude of the practice. Since it’s so important to be positive, why would anyone want to be negative? Negativity is caused by what Mr. Christopher refers to as the “Mis-Match Effect.” Life rarely meets anyone’s expectations. The way people deal with this disparity determines their attitude.

Secrets of Optimistic People Optimism has nothing to do with everything going your way. Optimism is in how you deal with life when it doesn’t go your way. Pessimists see failure as pervasive, personal and persistent. Optimists see failure as something to be learned from that is temporary. 1. Optimists LEAP through their fears. Optimists are afraid, but when they feel fear they act anyway. Mr. Christopher shared a story of how he learned to face one of his fears. He has an irrational fear of heights, but on a group vacation with 20 friends the guys dragged him out to go cliff jumping. As they approached the cliff his anxiety increased. This location had been thoroughly checked out. The cliff was completely safe and the water was plenty deep, however Mr. Christopher was terrified. Peer pressure eventually wore him down and he fought through his fear and jumped off the cliff. Time slowed down and the 20-foot fall to the water seemed to take 15 minutes, but the instant he hit the water the terror turned to what Bruce refers to as “thrillment” and he wanted to do it all over again. Your comfort zone is like a circle surrounding you. You are comfortable in the middle of your circle. As you move, or are pushed, toward the edges of that zone, your fear increases. As you push against your fears, a callus can form and your comfort zone can turn in to a thick wall and even act like a prison; trapping you inside. However, once you break through your comfort zone, it instantly expands and your

confidence increases. Mr. Christopher now enjoys cliff jumping even though it used to create a paralyzing fear inside him. There was a parachute anxiety study done to evaluate people who have gone skydiving. Jumpers were surveyed and almost all of them said the highest moment of fear was the first time they were at the jump door. These people were followed for about 6 months and researchers found the self-talk of these people was changed after skydiving. They found it easier to do all sorts of things that would have caused anxiety before by comparing the situation at hand with jumping out of an airplane. “I can ask my boss for a raise, I jumped out of an airplane!” They became more confident and more powerful. If you leap through your fear, your fear disappears. 2. Optimists find freedom in failure. Optimists actually fail a lot. They take a lot of risks and are constantly trying many new things. Mr. Christopher learned to downhill ski when he was 20 and eventually became a pretty good skier. He asked his best friend Joe, who was an amazing skier, to teach him. He brought Mr. Christopher to the hill and said: “If you don’t fall a lot today, you’re not trying hard enough. Let’s go.” That was his lesson. There was no technical instruction at all. Mr. Christopher was expecting a lot more, but the lesson was actually genius. Without knowing all of the things to think about, he had less to fear. He fell at least 50 times that day. Each time, he thought to himself; “Gee, I must be trying really hard.” The secret is to keep trying when you fail. Learn from your mistakes, or “miss-takes,” and do it over again. Failures are the stepping-stones to success. Optimists know this.

Conclusion Mr. Christopher closed his talk with one final piece of wisdom that summed up his entire presentation: Success in life is not hitting a home run every time you’re at the plate. Success in life is getting up to bat after you’ve struck out the last two times.



Leap! The Net Will Appear Keynote Speaker Bruce Christopher