Through our Reflections series we share nuggets of wisdom from our ongoing research for the Holstee Membership as well as personal experiences that have changed how we see the world.
September 24, 2018

Personal, Permanent, Pervasive.

“While you can’t control your experiences, you can control your explanations.”
– Martin Seligman

Many things in life are outside of our control. But one thing that is within our control is how we explain the things that happen to us.

This is known in psychology as our “explanatory style”. The language we use and the way we perceive our experiences — especially challenging ones — can have a lasting effect on who we become.

Like many of life’s big lessons, understanding a concept is far easier than putting it in action. In Martin Seligman's book Learned Optimism, he offers three explanatory styles that we typically use when we recall experiences: Permanent, Pervasive and Personal.

For each style, we can choose either an optimistic or pessimistic response. To understand these better, let’s use a recent example from my life.

Just the other day, I walked onto my balcony after a week away and saw my tomato plant nearly dead. Here are the different explanatory styles my self-talk could adopt:

Do I view this as permanent or impermanent?

Permanent: “I’ll never have homegrown tomatoes.”
Impermanent: “It didn’t work out this time, but there is is always next season.”

Do I view this as pervasive or specific?

Pervasive: “My tomato plant is like everything else in my life — all effort but no fruit!”
Specific: “I may have lost that plant, but I still have a garden of herbs.”

Do I view this as personal or external?

Personal: “I just don’t have a green thumb.”
External: “Maybe there wasn’t enough sun or the tomatoes needed more water while I was away or perhaps there are bugs sucking the life out of my plant.” (In my case, turned out to be those little bugs!)

This is not to say that all situations should be met with unchecked optimism. Critical thinking can help us minimize future risks, put things in perspective, and generally learn, grow, and flourish. It’s a matter of knowing our explanatory styles and understanding how they shape our experience in the world — and in what ways they lead us astray.

To growing with the garden,

Mike Radparvar
Co-Founder, Holstee

P.S. We explore this concept a bit further in our Resilience Guide, along with the idea of kintsugi and a few exercises to help you reflect on how resilience plays a role in your life.

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January 07, 2018

Life goals.

“Your audacious life goals are fabulous. We're proud of you for having them. But it's possible that those goals are designed to distract you from the thing that's really frightening you — the shift in daily habits that would mean a re–invention of how you see yourself.” - Seth Godin I was recently reflecting on what success looks like in my life. If I were to die in a week, a year, or a few decades, what would it take for me to be able to say, “Well, I did it — I accomplished everything I wanted. I lived a...


October 17, 2017


These days, I am finding myself wrapped up in the news — devastating tragedies, one after another.

My mind is filled with questions. Why would someone do this? How could it be possible? Why does it keep happening? What can be done now? The questions don’t seem to end.

I recently reached a point at which I was



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