Optimists and pessimists, we’ve all met both. On awakening, optimists open the window and say with a smile, “Good morning, God!” Pessimists? They rub their eyes; clear their throat; look out the window and say with a frown, “Good god, morning!” Pessimists always see the dark side of clouds. Optimists? They don’t see the clouds at all because they’re walking on them! There are countless jokes about optimists and pessimists; however, in truth, it’s not a funny matter. If the rosebush you planted withered and died instead of bursting into bloom, would you laugh? If it’s disappointing when a plant fails to reach its full potential, how much more so for a human being. Sad to say, pessimists are thieves, robbing themselves of their own potential.
What is optimism? It is simply the belief there is more good in life than bad. It is reacting to life in a positive manner. It is an attitude of positive expectations. Pessimists say that optimists are Pollyannas looking at the world through pink colored glasses and living in a fantasy. Which group is grounded in reality? Are the realists pessimists or optimists?
Well, we’re all born optimists. It is our nature to be optimistic. But when we reach five or six years old, we’ve been subjected to so much negativity we begin to believe the world may be gloomy after all. As we grow into adults, we continue to hear the mantra of negativity, “It’s a rat race out there. No point in working hard when wages are so low. No point in working hard and making big bucks when the government is going to take it all in taxes. What’s the point of getting married when 50% of marriages end in divorce?” And so on and so on.
But if we were to stop, question, and analyze, how could we not be optimists? The fact that a creature as frail as man has survived and is now poised to colonize space should be ample proof of a naturally optimistic nature. Yet the question continues to rage: Who is being realistic, an optimist or a pessimist?
Surprise! The answer is both are realistic. Both are correct. Why? Because their disposition (optimism or pessimism) is a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, a young man decides to become a stand-up comic. His friends think he’s nuts, but he’s an optimist. Because he thinks he has a chance, he keeps trying. And because he keeps trying, his chances keep increasing. True, he runs into obstacles, but he’s an optimist, so hurdles are seen not as objects of fear or frustration, but as puzzles in need of a solution. Because of his positive attitude, he doesn’t give up. And do you know what happens to people who don’t give up? They reach their goal! Now repeat in your mind the same scenario, but with a pessimist. What do you think the pessimist’s chances of success are? Can you see how their negative attitude set themselves up for failure?
The characteristics of pessimists and optimists have been identified. Whenever something goes wrong, pessimists believe the problem will continue indefinitely, affect all areas of their life, and is their fault. Optimists, however, believe that problems are temporary setbacks with limited impact and due to external causes. In a word, optimists are designed to cope, pessimists designed to mope.
So, what if we are pessimists, or not as optimistic as we would like to be? What should we do? We can begin by pondering the words of Frederick Mann, “One of the greatest powers in the universe is individual power of choice. And the most powerful choices are positive choices.” Yes, we can choose to change. We can choose to begin today.
How do we begin? We must become aware of our negative self-talk. We need to become aware of the negative scripts that are programmed in our mind and constantly play. Self-talk and scripts such as, “I can’t do that. I’m not good enough to . . . I’m afraid to . . . That makes me angry. No use trying since I’ll probably fail.” Whenever you catch yourself with a negative thought, immediately replace it with a positive one. It’s a simple but effective technique. So is working out in the gym. But if you want to reshape your body, working out one day for ten minutes will have no impact. The same is true for changing your attitude. If you’re serious, you have to work on it 15 ~ 20 minutes every day. Not much to ask for a new and much better you. If you come across an article or book that inspires you, read and reread it over and over again. Repetition is the key to success.
Of course, another good idea is to hang out with optimistic people. One place where you can do this is at an Optimist Club. Members begin their meetings with the following creed.
THE OPTIMIST CREED
Promise Yourself –
To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.
To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
To think only of the best, to work only for the best and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.