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Powering Up: Turning on Optimism

Optimism pushes a person to look for new challenges without fear of failure.

Hopefulness, cheerfulness, confidence, a tendency toward seeing the bright side of a situation, a belief that good ultimately prevails over evil—all of these encompass the characteristics of optimism. Optimism is energizing. It is an essential component of those who are successful in the journey of life. Success can be defined in a myriad of ways. It can be financial, spiritual, familial, social-- some or all of these elements. Optimism is powering up.

On the other hand, pessimism is typified by cynicism. It’s an inclination toward seeing the downside of a situation, expecting the worst, and being filled with doom and gloom. Have you had a colleague, friend, or family member whose sour attitude spoils every occasion? No matter the situation, Cynical Cynthia or Downer Dave find the negative to focus on. How do you feel around these individuals? Most of us find that such people are energy-draining. Pessimism is powering down.

Some may argue that pessimism is an adaptive mechanism that allows an individual to evaluate a situation realistically and prepare for potential problems and obstacles. This line of thinking goes like this: “pessimism is realism--it is looking at life with stone cold sober eyes and not with a vision obscured by delusional Pollyanna thinking. Being eternally optimistic is silly, childish, and does not factor in the realities of life.” Incarcerated individuals often talk about “doing time” and frequently embrace the pessimistic philosophy of “expect nothing, because you got nothing coming.” Ironically, the pessimist in “free” society is really living their life as if they are “doing time.” This type of living is existing. It is drained of energy as it is a mindset that dampens initiative; particularly, given the tendency to view setbacks as permanent.

Optimism is quintessentially an energizing, dynamic force. It is living life not doing time, but doing life. Optimism is a mindset. It encompasses a “can do” attitude, such as seeing opportunity where others see failure.

So, how do you power up?

  • Guard your mind. Negative Nellies are burglars who take away your optimism. Guard your mind from negative influences; if you lock the door to your car and home, why would you keep your mind open to the burglars of positive thinking?
  • Be dynamic. Remember, just like a still pond becomes stagnant, so can a still mind. Stretch yourself--try new things. Be curious--don’t get stuck in a rut.
  • Synergize. Develop associations with others who are hopeful, energetic, and dynamic. Collective enthusiasm can forward new ideas and opportunities.

Turning on optimism may be easier for some, like those who are born temperamentally cheerful. It may be more difficult for others who are inclined to be cynical.

  • If you are prone to cynicism, actively battle against it. Re-frame, re-set, and re-group.
  • Don’t give in to thoughts that say, “this is rose-colored glasses thinking” or “it’s not realistic.”
  • Give optimism a chance even if you don’t feel like it.

Optimism means that when the going gets tough we don’t lie down and give up. We may lay down to rest; but, we WILL get up. We are not going to be defeated in achieving all that we can. Optimism means that we have made a decision not to be shackled by fear, doubt, and indecision.

What characterizes optimism is that it pushes a person out of mediocrity, because having an expectation of the best is energizing; it leads an individual to look for new challenges without fear of failure. Moreover, failure itself can be reframed as successive approximations toward success. Give it the following interpretation: if you try enough times you will get there just like Thomas Edison did after countless tries in developing the incandescent light bulb. However, it doesn’t mean ignoring the consequences of bad decisions or behaving impulsively. It just means accepting the fact that we are all human, we make mistakes. Not all ideas are good; but, the bad ones may force us to go back to the drawing board to find the right way. Believe in yourself and don’t let people or circumstances defeat you; capitalize on the persistence that optimism fuels what you want to achieve.