Jane Brody in The New York Times:
Murphy’s Law — “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong” — is the antithesis of optimism. In a book called “Breaking Murphy’s Law,” Suzanne C. Segerstrom, a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky, explained that optimism is not about being positive so much as it is about being motivated and persistent. Dr. Segerstrom and other researchers have found that rather than giving up and walking away from difficult situations, optimists attack problems head-on. They plan a course of action, getting advice from others and staying focused on solutions. Whenever my husband, a dyed-in-the-wool pessimist, said, “It can’t be done,” I would seek a different approach and try harder — although I occasionally had to admit he was right. Dr. Segerstrom wrote that when faced with uncontrollable stressors, optimists tend to react by building “existential resources” — for example, by looking for something good to come out of the situation or using the event to grow as a person in a positive way. I was 16 when my mother died of cancer. Rather than dwell on the terrible void her death left in my life, I managed to gain value from the experience. I learned to apply her lifelong frugality more constructively, living each day as if it could be my last, but with a focus on the future in case it wasn’t. Yes, I saved, but I also chose not to postpone for some nebulous future the things I wanted to do and could, if I tried hard, find a way to do now. And I adopted a very forthright approach to life, believing that if I wanted something badly enough, I could probably overcome the odds against me.