“Real optimism is aware of problems but recognizes solutions; knows about difficulties but believes they can be overcome; sees the negatives, but accentuates the positives; is exposed to the worst but expects the best; has reason to complain, but chooses a smile.” (William Arthur Ward)
Optimism sometimes gets a bad rap. In today’s cynical world, a person who is an optimist is sometimes portrayed as a Pollyanna, or as an ostrich with their head stuck in the sand. But that isn’t what optimism is really like.
Many years ago, I won an oratory contest sponsored by the local Optimist Club. I think I recall that it was about Thomas Paine, but I remember nothing else about the talk. What I do remember was that there was a dinner before the competition. I and the other 5 or so competitors were each seated at different tables with the members. I don’t remember the topic of the dinner conversation, but I remember that it was uplifting. There were mostly middle-aged men in the room, and all of them had broad smiles and talked with ease.
In recent years I have allowed the cynicism of the world creep into my attitude. At work one of my specialties is Project Risk Management. In that discipline I look for things that might go wrong. Done correctly, Risk Management allows a team to focus its energy on positive outcomes, with an eye to what may get in the way. Sadly, though, I often let the downside of the Risk become my focus. I sometimes only see what may go wrong.
At home I am no different. I obsess about what may go wrong to the point that it eats at my insides. I avoid even the hint of bad news, because I know that it will drag me down emotionally. I have lost that ability to do what this quote suggests; namely to acknowledge the problems, but focus on the solution.
It is 10:45pm, and I have been trying to write about this quote all day. I was talking to a family member who reminded me that there is plenty in my life right now that lends itself to optimism. There are difficulties, but things are looking up. One would think that I should feel unburdened, but I find myself unable to let go of the worry.
I think that this quote, more than many in recent weeks, is a prescription for me. This quote reminds me of what life can be when I take on a more optimistic view. I don’t like living in my cynical self. I want to be an optimist again.
When I finish posting this, I am going to make a little sign for my office with this quote on it to serve as a reminder to get my head out of my rear, and start seeing the positives again.