“I’ll never make it.” “He’ll just laugh at me.” “This will never work.”

Sound familiar? Pessimism is an easy trap to fall into, focusing on the worst aspects of people and situations, doubting yourself and life’s ability to improve. The most pessimistic people carry this thinking style to past, present, and future. They regret the past and remember things with bitterness (or idealize the past and wish for a time they’ll never get back). They think of the present as full of negative things, ignoring life’s daily blessings. They lack hope and confidence in the future.

One of the greatest dangers of pessimism is that it can lead to a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” We expect things to turn out poorly, so they do. Proverbs 10:24 says, “What the wicked dread will overtake them; what the righteous desire will be granted” (NIV).

Fear-based living can kill our motivation to succeed. You may think, “Why should I make an effort since I know it will never work out?” Pessimism can also poison relationships, as it’s easy to absorb and get dragged down by another person’s negativity. Pessimism may also affect mental, physical, and spiritual health. Feelings of frustration, anger, discouragement, and hopelessness have been found to weaken our physical defenses and slow down healing processes. In a “vicious cycle,” such poor health can lead to increased pessimism.

How can you focus on the positive? First, remember that you choose your mode of thinking. When you face a situation that might be difficult, boring, long, scary, or painful, it’s easy to freeze up. Tell yourself, “I can think what I choose!” Then ask yourself and expand on questions like, What are two or three good things about it? What positive outcomes could come out of this? What will I gain during and after the event? What will others gain?

Finally, focus on God and His plans for you. The Bible is packed with encouragement. Proverbs 16:3 (NIV) says, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Pray, “Lord, help me see things in a good way.” God is telling you, “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9).