Philosophy and Psychology for Shattering Limits
By Max More, Ph.D.


Mahatma Ghandi had it. Norman Cousins had it. Helen Keller had it. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Magic Johnson, Marie Curie, and Christopher Reeve shine forth as examples of it. Each of these inspiring individuals live their lives with Dynamic Optimism. Dynamic optimists have an active, empowering, constructive attitude which creates conditions for success by focusing and acting on possibilities and opportunities. From this roster of optimists, we see that this optimism can be applied in diverse ways to attain goals in the realm of career and financial success, spirituality, health, and leadership.

Optimism seems like a simple idea. Just "don't worry, be happy!" In fact, an intelligent, effective optimism requires study, understanding, and practice. While any kind of optimism will feel better than pessimism, apathy, or depression, passive forms of optimism will not move us forward in life. Passive optimists tell themselves that all will work out fine. They expect other persons and institutions to solve problems. They feel no need to take action. They think positively but don't know how to turn thoughts into actions. Dynamic Optimism, by contrast, is practical optimism.

Actor Christopher Reeve's Heroic grappling with his injury gives us a radiant example of Dynamic Optimism. He has inspired millions by his attitude towards his crippling injury. Reeve is the best kind of optimist: one who takes action to improve his prognosis. He neither gave in to miserable pessimism, nor to passive optimism that fantasizes about improvement without taking responsibility. Reeve's optimism gave him the courage to appear before a billion people at the Academy Awards and to make major progress toward regaining control of his body.

What goes on in the head of Christopher Reeve or any other limit busting person that allows them to take such extraordinary steps in the face of difficulty? If we look at those who are most happy, most successful, most healthy, we find invincible optimists. Effective optimism fosters sucess of all kinds: The financial success of a Bill Gates, the inspirational success of a Ghandi or a Winston Churchill, and the successful health of a Norman Cousins. Psychologists like Dr. Martin Seligman have repeatedly shown that optimists not only do better educationally and in their careers, they also enjoy superior health and longevity. But how can we become optimists if we lean toward pessimism? And how can we be effective, dynamic optimists if we sometimes fall for passive, wishful optimism?

Combining philosophical understanding and psychological knowledge, a technology of Dynamic Optimism has been created. Psychologists and therapists contributing essential elements of Dynamic Optimism include Martin Seligman (Learned Optimism), Albert Ellis (Rational Emotive Therapy) David Burns (Feeling Good), Julian Simon (Good Mood), and Aaron Beck. Building on their work, I have identified twelve personal characteristics that promote Dynamic Optimism. Each of us can learn to master

Dynamic Optimism by first understanding these characteristics, then implementing them by learning fifteen thinking patterns. Several psychological exercises help reinforce these optimism promoting qualities and thoughts. Dynamic optimists interpret their experience differently than other people. They also influence outcomes differently by translating effective thoughts into specific kinds of actions. For instance, pessimists, passive optimists, and dynamic optimists all selectively focus their attention. (This is the first of the twelve characteristics.) The differing ways in which they focus their attention lead to noticing different things, experiencing different motivations, and taking different actions. The pessimist focuses on problems, pains, and pitfalls. The pasisive optimist sees only what is encouraging and enjoyable, but blinds himself to potential obstacles. This leads to failure, frustration, and ill health.

The dynamic optimist dwells on the constructive and enjoyable while deemphasizing pain, difficulty, and frustration. Dynamic optimists can look at a frustrating event, fully accept its reality, then choose to interpret the event in a way that leads to action, growth, and mastery. They recognize dangers but have a wider vision open to solutions, possibilities, and assisting forces.

Where the pessimist sees problems, the optimist sees challenges. By focusing on constructive, joyful, open ended aspects of life, the optimist spots more solutions and feels more motivated to overcome obstacles. Not only does dynamic optimism promote happiness, success, and mental and physical health, it seems to magically turn the person into a magnet for good luck. But the magic is only apparent. Good fortune comes mostly to those with the right mindset, awareness, and actions. Dynamic optimism provides a powerful technology for changing thinking to abolish depression, foster happiness, and maximize the achievement of personal goals.

Max More, Ph.D., is a philosopher and futurist visionary who focuses on overcoming limits to achievement and happiness. Dr. More created Dynamic Optimism by combining his own insights with breakthroughs in psychological science. He credits Extropy magazine and is President of Extropy Institute, a prominent voice of the human future. His ideas have been featured in numerous TV and magazine reports, including CBS' Mysteries of the Millennium, NBC's The Other Side, BBC and CNBC documentaries, Wired and Rolling Stone. Max is a pioneer in combining philosophy, psychology, and science to understand how to live longer, become more intelligent, fine tune emotions, and overcome human limits.

To find out more about Dynamic Optimism, introductory classes are scheduled on Saturdays through September 14 at a cost of$20, which can be applied toward the all day seminar scheduled for Saturday, September 28. For further information, please call (310) 3980375 or email maxmore@primenet.com

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