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If you chose option 3, congratulations—it demonstrates two hallmarks of healthy optimists. First is the ability to stop negativity from hijacking your thoughts. Second, and almost as important, is how this is done: The person in option 3 convinces herself she'll be okay even if she is fired. She has her talents and self-worth firmly in mind, which can make a big difference in a meeting with a superior.

If optimism isn't currently your default, the good news is that it's a perspective you can cultivate. When you feel fear rising, try these two steps:

1. Fake a sunny attitude. Your brain gets feedback from your face—so if you force yourself to smile, you may actually feel better.

2. Identify all possible silver linings. Imagine you have the "righting reflex" of a cat: No matter what, you'll always land on your feet.

This exercise was created by Susan C. Vaughan, MD, author of Half Empty, Half Full: Understanding the Psychological Roots of Optimism (Mariner).

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