Ep 41: The Power of Positive Illusions

Having a firm grip on reality is usually seen as a sign of good mental health.  But social scientists have discovered that happy and successful people routinely overestimate their skill, talent, and chances of success. In fact, that may be one of the secrets to their success.

In this episode, we explore why being overly optimistic is not a cognitive defect that needs to be overcome but a constructive trait that we can cultivate.


  1. Being willing to believe that you’ll beat the odds can make it more likely that you will
  2. When you believe you’ll be successful in the end, it’s easier to cope with (and even learn from)  setbacks.
  3. Reflecting on past successes can be a good way to bolster your optimism about the future.
  4. Optimism doesn’t save you from having to do the work. But we’re usually willing to work harder for something that we believe we can achieve.

Lab Experiment (download a copy)

  1. Think of a goal or result you’d like to achieve. 
  2. Visualize what it would feel and look like to achieve it.
  3. Picture yourself taking the steps required to make that dream a reality. (If you can’t clearly picture what those steps are, spend some time figuring out what they would be.)  
  4. Allow yourself to feel confident and optimistic—and let that optimism fuel your determination to do the work.