In Defense of Pollyanna

Many of you may recall the movie Pollyanna. I’m speaking of the original Disney movie with Hayley Mills. If you recall, she was a young girl sent to stay with her “spinster” aunt in a town that seemed to be filled with very cranky folk. Despite their negative attitudes, Pollyanna turns the place around with her indominable spirit and unfailing positive view of life. She describes the ‘Glad Game’ and how,  whenever something bad happens, she’d think of something glad about it and ends up feeling better.

Over the years, the name “Pollyanna” has come to refer to someone with the proverbial rose-colored glasses. An unrealistic and overly optimistic person who fails to acknowledge just how bad things are or could be. 

However, I think we need to be more like Pollyanna, especially today. It seems to me we look for the negative or critical side of things first. Whatever happened to the old saying “every cloud has a silver lining” or that “it’s always darkest before the dawn”. I’m no cockeyed optimist but I AM an optimist and it has served me well, even in business. And, in the worlds of adult learning and development, and executive coaching, I think it’s a good thing to look for what positive learning can be derived from a negative experience. In job interviewing, we often want to ask a job applicant about a previous failure on the job and what exactly they learned from it (or what do they now do differently because of that experience). 

Let’s not be too quick to unfairly judge the Pollyannas of the world but rather understand that “some good can come of this” if we only look for it. After all, don’t we tend to find what we are looking for? And, psychology tells us we tend to get more of what we focus on. So why not focus on the good, the silver lining in the experience and what learning can be derived, or what growth we can achieve without, of course, denying that yes, life can be tough, bad things do happen to good people, the world doesn’t owe you a living. It’s raining today as I write this and somewhat dark but my lawn needs the water, I’m less distracted than if it were sunny and beautiful, might be a great afternoon for a nap, eh?

Image: movies.disney.com

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