PollyAnna on the Happy Bus


Recently, I went out for lunch with my son.  Is there is anything better than having a person you pushed through the birth canal become one of your best friends who intrigues and stimulates you with great thoughts and inspiration.

If so, I can’t imagine what that is.

He chose the restaurant. Perkins. Why? Because they have huge breakfasts in the afternoon. What could be better for my son, the culinary black hole?

From him, I learned one of the biggest lessons in life about explanatory styles. He seems to be walking on a permanent cloud of incredible success in so many areas of life—great job, great wife, great friends. 

As the waitress left with the order, he turned to me with his eyebrows up as if he just saw the Red Sea split in two. He said, “Mom, I just knew they would have exactly what I wanted for breakfast and that thing I ordered had it all—pancakes with blueberries, fried potatoes, a meat, and eggs! All I had to do was ask. Mom, that’s how my life works! I just think about what I want and it comes easily. Things just work out for me.”

I was floored. Didn’t he know that you can pretty much go anywhere to order a breakfast and they have a breakfast meat, eggs, pancakes, and whole wheat toast, for goodness sakes? He did get accepted into one of the best PhD programs for physics in the country so he’s no dummy.

But I must be. What I learned from him is that the reason his life is so gracefully filled with successes, fun, friends, and happiness is that his filter sees it all that way. He’s on the happy bus and Pollyanna is his date!

If he gets a setback, he explains it away as a temporary challenge. Let’s face it: If they didn’t have pancakes, we would have had to figure out how to get them down the street. He expects things to work out, so, in his worldview, they do!

Yep, his mother—who might instead have whined that they never have the food on the menu I want—just learned a powerful lesson from her son.

Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism, has done profound research that shows that optimists, those with a positive explanatory style, tend to be far more successful than those who interpret events as negative and permanent.

His research show that successful people explain good things as positive and permanent:  “That’s how it always is for me.”

They discuss less optimal results as not likely to happen again: “That’s just not like me.”

How can you “learn” optimism by consciously choosing an explanatory style that is positive and permanent? It might just transform your life.

Leave a Reply