Working as an executive coach and trainer I get to meet some amazingly talented people from a wide range of backgrounds and industries.

Over the last 30 years I must have met thousands of business professionals and I am still curious as to what makes people succeed.

Is there a magic ingredient?

There is a view that only two personality traits determine achievement – ability and motivation.

But a critical third factor is THE EXPECTATION THAT YOU WILL SUCCEED, ranging from optimistic to pessimistic.

Based on 30 years of research with over 1 million participants, Dr. Martin Seligman and his colleagues have uncovered a significant new predictor of achievement  Optimism

In other words, the ability to succeed and the desire to succeed are not always enough without the belief that you will succeed.

What does this mean in practice and what can be done about it?

There are two mindsets you can adopt:

  1. Pessimism –  automatically and excessively blaming yourself for outcomes, without real justification.
  1. Optimism – where you de-personalise and are more likely to see adversity as a challenge, transform problems into opportunities, persevere and rebound quickly after setbacks.

Even die hard optimists have pessimistic thoughts on occasions but for one reason or another they tend to adopt this approach automatically.

There have been over 500 studies from around the world that collectively reveal the benefits of optimism:

  • Increased motivation
  • Superior achievement in various settings (at work, in school and in sports)
  • Elevated mood and well being

Research on physical health has found that pessimists tend to:

  • Have more illnesses than optimists
  • Make more visits to the doctor
  • Are more likely to die from coronary heart disease

(Buchanan 1989, Peterson 1988, Peterson & Seligman 1987)

Optimism is not about walking around in a robotic state chanting positive sayings (!) it’s about how you bounce back from setbacks and whether issues that occur on one area of your life spread into others.


As an Executive Coach I use a variety of techniques to help my clients succeed in their goals. If you would like to find out how I can help you please don’t hesitate to get in touch.