The Wall Street Journal's pay-walled "Power of Negative Thinking" is at the top of today's most popular recent articles, offering such tantalizing nuggets as:
Just thinking in sober detail about worst-case scenarios—a technique the Stoics called "the premeditation of evils"—can help to sap the future of its anxiety-producing power. The psychologist Julie Norem estimates that about one-third of Americans instinctively use this strategy, which she terms "defensive pessimism." Positive thinking, by contrast, is the effort to convince yourself that things will turn out fine, which can reinforce the belief that it would be absolutely terrible if they didn't.
Reading it, I couldn't help but reflect that defensive pessimism might have been a useful technique for the takers of the recent Michigan bar exam, given the dismal passage rate.
The question of the role that optimism and pessimism play in lawyer behavior, success, and satisfaction has been the subject of academic attention, as noted in a prior SBM Blog post. Oft-cited is "Why Lawyers Are Unhappy" (PDF), by Martin E. P. Seligman. And check out this surprising piece from Law and Psychology Review -- "Cognitive Optimism and Professional Pessimism in the Large-Firm Practice of Law: The Optimistic Associate," by Arizona State law professor Catherine O'Grady (Michigan '81).
Meanwhile, we're awaiting Dan Bowling's three-year study on law what students’ strengths predict about their performance in law school and about their own sense of well-being, due, by our calculation, sometime in 2013.