The volume of twaddle spouted about optimism and pessimism by half-baked amateurs (like me) is hardly helpful to those looking for an understanding so they're able to make better recruitment and people decisions for themselves and those around them. Much of it is either vacuous - or clever and impenetrable. Hardly useful when big decisions are being made...

However, today I read something on the BBC website that gave me a better understanding. Written in plain English (well, almost) it explains that the reasons for being an optimist or pessimist are broadly split into 2 equal influences. The first is genetic and the second environmental - and it appears that the genetic element can be influenced at a young age by the quality of maternal love (yes the make-up of your genes can change after birth). If your mother was stressed and anxious, this could lead to an impact on your genes that will result is a more negative outlook on life. My mother has something else to answer for - poor old soul. This article was about a wonderful programme called "The Truth about Personality". You can watch it on iPlayer if you CLICK HERE - Recommended watching!

This leaves me with the problem about how to open up a discussion with candidates about their mother and still retain some level of credibility (especially after my last article questioned the sanity of some interviewers who ask really stupid questions).

It appears that a course of CBM (Cognitive Bias Modification) can attune us to a more positive outlook rather like turning a dimmer switch.

Now if you're thinking this doesn't impact on you because you don't recruit people, let me give you another reason to take this seriously. It would appear that optimists live longer - seven and a half years in one study! - and optimistic nuns live ten years longer!!

To be fair, an extra two and a half years as a nun might feel a good deal longer than it should, so I'll remain free to visit the pub more often and make sure my glass is always full...


(Image courtesy of

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