Can Gloomy Gus Become Cheerful Charlie?

Can Gloomy Gus Become Cheerful Charlie?
By Michael Josephson of Character Counts (743.5)
Bad stuff happens. People get sick, lose a loved one,
get fired, and make mistakes.
Though these events are facts that become a permanent
part of our history, the quality of our lives is not
determined by the number or nature of our bad
experiences, but how we interpret and react to them.
Most of us have a default position in our response to
painful and disappointing experiences that is either
positive-oriented or negative-oriented.
Pessimists explain adverse events to themselves in
ways that perpetuate negative feelings about the past
and generate fear and anxiety about the future.
Optimists see positive aspects of most situations and
they expect people to be good and things to work out.
The good news is that negative thinking is not a
permanent attribute; it’s just a bad habit.
Here are three strategies to transform Gloomy Gus into
Cheerful Charlie, or at least move Gus from negative to
neutral: diversion, distraction and disputation.
Diversion consists of consciously re-directing your
thoughts every time negative explanations and
predictions emerge: "She hates me, it’s my fault, I
can’t win." Don’t allow yourself to dwell on feelings
of hopelessness or helplessness. Negativity may come
uninvited, but you don’t have to let it stay. Think
about good things, your successes and all you have to
be grateful for.
Distraction involves actions that take your mind off
whatever is making you sad or anxious. Read a book,
play a game, watch a movie, surf the Net. Don’t let
negative thoughts take root.
The most potent strategy, however, is disputation. Put
your pessimism on trial. Aggressively challenge
negative explanations and assumptions. Convince the
jury in your mind that pessimism is a lie and argue
for positive interpretations.
Try it. It really works.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character
(c) 2012 Josephson Institute of Ethics; reprinted with
permission. Michael Josephson, one of the nation’s
leading ethicists, is the founder of the Josephson
Institute of Ethics and the premier youth character
education program, CHARACTER COUNTS! For further
information visit

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