Health care reform is bringing dramatic changes to our industry, our profession and our businesses. No breaking news there. What can break in times like these, however, is a sense of optimism about the future.

Maintaining a positive attitude when it seems like the universe is conspiring to put you out of business can be understandably difficult. Yet maintaining a positive attitude is critically important to success. That’s one of the key findings of the “Trailblazed Sales Study” I led to identify the practices, perspectives and processes that separate successful producers from their less successful colleagues.

There’s an obvious logic to this. We all know people who see the glass as half full and we know others who don’t. And we know with whom we’d prefer to be stuck in an elevator and on whom we’d bet to succeed. Of course, when you’re achieving sales success it’s easier to be positive about things.

The real test is not how one feels when things are going well, but what one thinks when they’re not. That’s the conclusion reached by Dr. Martin Seligman, a past president of the American Psychological Association, who has spent decades researching optimism and pessimism.

In his book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, Dr. Seligman describes pessimists’ internal dialogue when things go wrong as making the situation personal (“It’s my fault”), pervasive (“Everything I do is doomed”) and permanent (“I’ll always be a failure”). As a result, pessimists learn helplessness which, in turn, makes them less capable of overcoming challenges. Optimists think differently.

Failure is not taken personally nor is it viewed as impacting the rest of their lives and continuing forever. Consider two brokers each losing a sale. The pessimist thinks, “It’s my fault. I can’t sell anything and I never will.” An optimist views things more realistically: “I guess this wasn’t the right product for her. It’s a good product as I’ve sold it before and I will again.”

This thought process gives optimists a sense of control over events. What this means, as Dr. Seligman points out, is optimism can be learned by breaking the habit of helplessness (failure is personal, pervasive and permanent) and viewing circumstances in a more objective manner.

Given what’s happening with health care reform producers would be forgiven for being anxious. However, brokers have handled dramatic changes before. How? Not by believing we’re doomed and there’s nothing to be done about it. Nor by assuming we can get by doing what we’ve always done the way we’ve always done things. That’s being delusional, not optimistic.

Surviving change requires an objective, reasoned view of what’s happening and a sense of control over the outcome. As the “Trailblazed Sales Project” found, successful producers don’t naively believe the good guys always win. Instead, they believe that hard work, perseverance and a smart approach give the good guys a good chance of winning. That’s not just a positive attitude. It’s reality.

Alan Katz is principal of the Alan Katz Group and author of “Trailblazed: Proven Paths to Sales Success” (