glass half full
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Imagine this scenario: Your boss calls you at 10 A.M. and asks you to come to his office for a 2 P.M. meeting. The company rumor mill has been forecasting terminations, and now you're anxious. Which option best describes how you'd react?

Option 1

You make a list of the people who would be let go before you, based on seniority and job performance. Then you prepare to defend your work if need be.

Option 2

You try to identify what you may have done wrong recently. Then you invite a close coworker out for coffee and speculate about the meeting.

Option 3

You proceed with your day, but in the back of your mind you think about all the things you dislike about your job, until a pink slip doesn't seem so terrible.

Option 4

You spend the morning sending out feelers to your contacts in the field. Taking action and knowing you have other prospects makes you feel better.

Next: What your choice means
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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