Life potentials An Optimistic Explanatory Style Makes You Happy

Our explanatory style—how we choose to explain the nature of past events—has a crucial impact on our happiness and future success

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One fundamental human personality trait explains success and happiness

Research shows that one single concept is surprisingly accurate when trying to explain the success or failure of people. And it is not about intelligence, education or other measures of formal knowledge in an area. It has to do with how you choose to interpret events in your life.

In other words, your perspective makes a big difference.

Some people are much better at bouncing back from adversity - no matter how many setbacks they encounter they don’t give up but keep looking for ways to turn things around and turn challenges and setbacks into opportunities. Others simply stop and give up when they meet adversity.

An optimistic explanatory style explains success in virtually all areas of human life

Researchers have discovered that people that are able to bounce back and overcome setbacks all shared a common personality trait - a positive way of looking at setbacks and the explanation behind.

This way of interpreting temporary failure has been labelled an optimistic explanatory style. And research shows that this concept is one of the strongest predictors of human wellbeing and achievement.

Your explanatory style has a major impact on both your future success AND your happiness.

It is quite astonishing how many different areas of human achievement is affected by our explanatory style. Here are a few examples:

  • How well you do in high school
  • The performance of new military recruits
  • How well patients recover from major surgery
  • Athletic performance

In the business area your explanatory style also makes a big difference. In one study, for example, the most optimistic sales people that were able to put a positive perspective on rejections sold 88 percent more than the pessimistic ones. The result made the company change their hiring practices to take explanatory style into account when choosing between candidates for a job.

Most importantly, an optimistic explanatory style is closely related to happiness and wellbeing. This is not surprising if you look at the fact that external circumstances only account for 10 percent of happiness. The rest is internal factors. How we perceive and interpret reality is much more important. In other words our perspective or explanatory style.


The Happiness Advantage

Read more about how to use your perspective and focus to improve your life and become happier in the book “The Happiness Advantage” by Harvard graduate Shawn Achor.


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