The Value of Optimism


Ever since Kat D left a comment on my blog post about risk taking to let me know that "I forgot to discuss positivity," this topic has been lurking under the surface of my consciousness waiting to be fully processed. Not only was the concept missing from my post, it was completely missing from my understanding of my own risk-taking behavior.

Kat went on to say, "you need to be a positive person to find the courage to take risks," and you know, she's right. Being positive and having optimism is an absolute necessity for courage and successful risk taking. I will take it one step further here and say, it is also, the single most important element to manifest your future life experience.

I can pretty much bucket everyone I have ever known during my thirtysomething years into two different groups: "Optimists" and "Everyone Else." I won't call the "Everyone Else" people "Pessimists" -- I've had enough conversations with these folks to know that they prefer to call themselves "Realists." I personally have a problem with that definition, and so, for the sake of facilitating an open discussion, I'll stick with "Everyone Else."

An optimist, by definition, has an "inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events." And I will define "Everyone Else" as people that have the "inclination to put the harshest construction upon action, events and the future." What I don't know (and would love to hear your thoughts) -- is this a trait or a choice? 

I think it is a choice, although perhaps for many, an unconscious one and I'll tell you why:

Optimists aren't optimists because we are idiots. Let's be clear. We see all the same obstacles and f-d up circumstances "Everyone Else" see but we CHOOSE to focus on what' s good and possible. We CHOOSE to look for the tiny gaps under, over, and around each obstacle. And let me make it known, it's a lot of damn work to make these choices day in and day out. And it's even harder work in the face of constant pessimism from "Everyone Else."

What if we all were pessimists or "realists?" What if nobody ever said "look the bright side," or "Yes, we can?" What would the world be like then? I'll tell you -- it would suck more than it does now. Nobody would encourage each other. Nobody would be pushing for positive change. Nobody would work on the biggest issues facing our nation or our planet -- why would they?  The obstacles are admittedly daunting. But -- in my opinion -- there is nothing smarts, ingenuity and hard work can't solve.

A new but great friend recently said to me, "What if someone told you right now you could build anything in the world? What would you build? Now, what if you were 5 and someone asked you that? What would you be able to imagine then?

That single comment opened my mind to possibilities far greater than what I had been imagining for myself before. I am now re-imagining my world through that lens. Imagining a life where my work is always important. Where my best assets and skills shine. Where I have an amazing and talented network of men and women surrounding and mentoring me at every step. Where truth and integrity win.  Where authenticity is the norm, and where happiness, health and money flow with abundance.

Because that is the value of optimism -- I can dream and believe without boundaries. I can envision my perfect world and I can work to make it happen.

And before your personal auto-responder pops up, let me say, I don't want to hear one "realistic" opinion about it. BUT, I would like to hear about your dreams. In a perfect world without limitations, what do you dream?

And if there's one thing these years of being an optimist has taught me, it's that sharing your dreams with other optimists brings you one step closer to manifesting them. Other people rise to meet and support you and they are the ones that often have the key you need to open the next door.

And every door you open, builds your well of courage to take the next step. And then, all of a sudden, you are courageous enough to jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.*

* Adaptation of quote by Ray Bradbury

By Gretchen Fox, Social Architect at grtchnfx



Posted on March 6, 2013 .