3 Daily Habits to Maintain Hope in the Face of Adversity

An optimistic mindset is essential right now, and these 3 phrases help provide the proper lens of learned optimism

By Michael Miller – April 6th, 2020

This will not last forever.

This is not changing everything.

Your effort will make a difference.

These three phrases form the basis of Martin Seligman’s theory of learned optimism, a guide for how to frame adversity that has been found to effectively reduce anxiety. Personally, I’ve found it to be very helpful in the current crisis. Before we explore each of these phrases a little more, let’s clarify a common misconception what optimism is – and what it isn’t.

Learned optimism isn’t passively ‘hoping for the best’

Optimism isn’t blindly hoping for the best. In fact, being “optimistic” in a passive, naïve sense – without real effort – would only get us deeper into trouble. The type of optimism that will help us is this skill of optimism: intentionally practicing an optimistic mindset. This effortful optimism is about framing adversity in a healthy, realistic way and taking ownership of finding solutions – exactly what we need right now. 

This “frame,” Seligman argued, is formed by a person’s explanatory style, which he abbreviated as the 3 Ps.


Seligman’s 3 Ps of optimism during adversity

The first one is permanence. Repeat after me: This will not last forever. In times of high stress and uncertainty, it can be easy to forget this. Remind yourself every day: This will not last forever.

The second one is pervasiveness: This is not changing everything. This is probably the most difficult in this current crisis, because it is certainly impacting many, many areas of everyone’s life. Still, it’s not ruining everything. Remember to express gratitude for what you do have, even in these difficult times, and for the choices you CAN make to focus on yours and others’ wellbeing.

The last one, and quite possibly the most important, is personalization. Your effort will make a difference. You are still in the driver’s seat of your thoughts, feelings and actions, and what you do will make a difference. We know what we need to do to slow the spread of the virus. It isn’t ideal for anyone, but at least we know what we have to do, and that our individual and collective effort will make a difference.

Thinking about adversity from this lens will give us the fuel we need to keep going. Share the message with as many people as you can.

This will not last forever.

This is not changing everything.

Your effort will make a difference.

Want more emotional intelligence tips and strategies? Join one of our free or low-cost Growing U sessions: 6seconds.org/grow. Here’s this week’s calendar:

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