What do you see?

February 23, 2021

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed looks at the challenge of optimism vs pessimism with this quote – “Optimism shouldn’t be seen as opposed to pessimism, but in conversation with it.  Your optimism will never be as powerful as it is in that exact moment when you want to give it up.”    (Amanda Gorman)

Whether you are generally an optimistic person or a pessimist directly impacts your daily life. Someone probably already said this, but I’ll attribute t to myself here – “What you see depends upon how you look at things.”

It can be a dark and gloomy world for those trapped in an pessimistic outlook on life, just as it can be perpetually sunny and bright for the optimists of the world. I suspect that most walk right on that thin line between the two, sometimes seeing the dark side of things and sometimes the bright side. One can hope that the bright side wins out most of the time, such that you are seen by others as having a “sunny disposition”.

Optimism draws it’s strength from hope. Hope for the best outcome. Hope for friendship and love. Hope for better things ahead. In many, that hope is fueled by faith. Faith opens the door to hope by overcoming and eliminating the ultimate worst outcome in life – death. Faith allows us to accept what has happened, whatever it is, and continue to look ahead. Faith removes from us the burden of responsibility for solving all of life’s problems and puts that responsibility in the hands of God. Faith  allows us to look at things and see the good in them, by seeing the God in them.

I recently used a quote by Albert Camus and another comes to mind for this post – “In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” –  Albert Camus

Albert Camus (1913-1960) was a French philosopher and novelist whose works examine the alienation inherent in modern life and who is best known for his philosophical concept of the absurd. He explored these ideas in his famous novels, The Stranger (1942), The Plague (1947), and The Fall (1956), as well as his philosophical essays, The Myth of Sisyphus (1942) and The Rebel (1951). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957.

The winter that Camus mentioned might be allegorical for despair and pessimism and the invincible summer for faith and optimism. A person of faith is by definition a person of hope – an optimist. How about you? What do you see? Is there within you an invincible summer?

I believe that there is within all of us that glimmer of hope that is fueled by an ember of faith, however tiny. If one but puts the tinder of prayer on that ember and nurtures it a little bit, it will flame up in your life to provide warmth and light – your invincible summer.

Try it, you’ll like it. You will see things differently.

Wandering back and forth across the line…

February 27, 2015

“Starry-eyed dreaming isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”  (Gabriele Oettimgen), as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to write – G.O. has written a book, “Rethinking Positive Thinking.”  In it she is saying that ”wishing will not make it so.”  There are obstacles when it comes to turning dreams into reality…home, work, life in general.  She suggests that we set for ourselves a desired future and then work at setting a path toward achieving it.  

man daydreamingI suppose that there is a fine line somewhere between optimism and starry-eyed dreaming, just as there is between realism and pessimism on the negative side of life. Gabriele’s advice, which might come under the heading of common sense,  wanders back and forth across the big line between the positive and the more negative (some might say the realistic) and that’s OK because I believe that we spend our lives wandering back and forth across that line. The trick is not to wander too far one way or the other.

There are dangers at the extremes of both attitudes – positive and negative. At the edges of optimism is the trap of starry-eyed dreaming, which wastes our time and accomplished nothing; and on the other side of the big line, just beyond the realistic is pessimism, which can lead to depression or worse. One could, I suppose, make a case for starry-eyed dreaming being less dangerous than pessimism; however, both are a waste of energy, mental and otherwise. Unlike the rules about not crossing the solid line on the pavement while driving, it’s OK to wander back and forth across the line between optimism and realism, just don’t go too far and get off into the ditches of starry-eyed dreaming or depressing pessimism.

Gabriele’s advice to envision a desired future and then lay out a plan to get there is consistent with every other piece of advice from so-called life coaches that I’ve ever reaching goalseen. Whole books have been written about how to do that, so you can read Gabriele’s book or find tons of others in the “Self-Help” section of the bookstore or library. Most of us tend to prefer the positive side of things, so we might gravitate towards the books based upon more optimistic points of view. Books written by scientists tend to hew a line closer to the middle; while books by survivalists and other fringe groups from the negative side might focus upon strategies to make it through the predicted apocalypse.  If Utopia is the envisioned destination of optimists, then Armageddon seems to be the predicted future for pessimists. While neither extreme outcome is likely, I’d sooner be striving towards Utopia than the alternative.

I might sum up much of this advice (at least from the more positive side of things) by stating that it is important to take control of your life, have a plan and work towards your goals. If you do those three things with a positive attitude in general, you will find yourself wandering back and forth across the line between optimism and realism but reward
your journey will always be guided by the bright star of hope rather than the dark star of fear.  It’s not that you will become a starry-eyed dreamer, but rather that you will become an unstoppable do-er. You will become known to friends and family as a problem-solver, a go-to guy/gal, the one who will succeed. Friends, family and co-workers will see you as someone to be emulated. Have you ever heard that about a pessimist? I haven’t.

So, go ahead and have your dreams; just make sure that you also have a path laid out to get to the ones that you have converted from dreams to goals and a positive attitude of hope to guide you along the way. Hopefully I’ll meet you along the way. Maybe we’llWomen dancing even be going in the same direction and be on the same side of the line between optimism and realism. And if you see me headed for the ditches on either side, hook your horn to wake me up; I’ve obviously wandered too far. I’ll do the same for you.

Have a realistically optimistic day!

It’s Wednesday – What day is this for you?

January 14, 2015

There’s an ad running on TV right now about people yelling, “Hey Camel, what day is it?” at camels at the zoo, much to the consternation of the camels whocamel have heard the hump day line way too often.  For too many of us Wednesday is “hump day”, meaning we have made it over the hump and more than half way through another dreary week. For those people the thought is, “Thank God, only two more days to endure until the weekend.” For them the glass is now more than half empty. These are usually people with a relatively pessimistic outlook on life.

For people who live their lives with a positive mental attitude, Wednesday isn’t hump day and they are thinking, “Thank God, I have two more days left this week to get things done and make a difference.” What kind of difference? Maybe it’s just finding another opportunity to greet someone with a smile and a cheery hello. Maybe there really is something that they can do for someone else that will make that person’s life easier or happier. Maybe it’s just their own lives that they are changing and they can use the next two days to make progress on those changes – maybe two more trips to the gym or attending two more classes or getting two more chances to continue reading the book that they bought. For these people the glass is half full and each day is greeted as an opportunity, not as something that one must get through somehow.

The most recent issue of Bloomberg Business Week opens with an article on the impact of the power of positive thinking on the economy. The article sites studies and concludes that positive thinkers get ahead more, get elected to office more, live longer  and are way happier than people who are pessimists. Being a business oriented publication they even go into some of the positive business aspects of positive thinking, linking it to entrepreneurship and business success. There were even statistics at the macro level for entire nations that showed that the more happy and upbeat the population is the better the nation does in the competitive international economy.

So, which type person are you? Is today hump day and you’re resigned to having to slough through two more days at work before you get to have any fun on the weekend or do you see two more days of possibilities ahead of the weekend. And what about those weekends? Do the pluggers for whom Wednesday is hump day really enjoy those two weekend days the way that they think they will or do they turn out to be disappointing and wasted time, too? Many of them spend their time sitting in front of the TV watching sports shows and drinking beer; while the upbeat people are out playing sports or doing things with friends and family?

The good news is that you don’t have to be stuck in the pessimists’ rut. Short of a miraculous and spontaneous conversion to optimism, there are lots of things you can do turn your outlook on life around and start enjoying it more. You can start by changing what you initially look for in any situation. Rather than looking for the dangers or risks or downside to whatever you are contemplating, try looking for the positive results that will come about when everything goes right and then go make that happen. Don’t wait to say, “thank you”, to someone else for doing something kind for you; rather, pay it forward and do something kind for someone else, then you’ll be the one saying, “you’re welcome”, and it will make you feel great. Make this Wednesday the day that you get over the hump of pessimism and on your way to a better more positive life.

camel faceHey camel, what day is it? The camel replies – “The first day of the best of your life.”

Looking for your incredible moment…

December 9, 2013

From the blog Jack’s Winning Words comes this quote –  “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”  (Carl Sagan).  Jack went on to talk about all of the incredible things that are happening or about to happen, such as commercial spaceflight, robotic surgery, and Amazon using robo-helicopters to deliver packages.

As I thought about it, I thought what about modifying the saying a little to read, “Somewhere, rainbowsomething incredible is waiting to happen for you.” If you go through life hoping for and expecting the best to happen, eventually they will. If you believe in people, in their basic honesty and integrity; you will not be disappointed most of the time. If you imagine and visualize the best outcome for whatever you are doing, it is surprising how many times you can make that come true. And, if you strive to find the silver lining in dark situations or the rainbow at the end of one of life’s storms, it is always there, waiting for you to find it.

 I keep a little compilation of quotes handy, in case I need inspiration for a blog post. A group of them are quotes by Robert Brault, a famous writer on optimism. One of my favorites is this one-

grim reaperOptimist: someone who notices a tall hooded figure with a scythe trailing him and thinks, “Boy, I’m sure glad I’m not a stalk of wheat.”

So, don’t be a stalk of wheat today. Be someone who takes every opportunity to find that incredible something somewhere that is waiting to happen in your life. You could just wait to stumble into it or you can look at everything in your life as possibly being that incredible moment and approach it with anticipation and enthusiasm.

One of the side benefits of being in that mood and mode is that it is contagious and those around you will see it and catch it and everyone will be a bit happier and better off because of your attitude. Maybe that is he incredible thing that you are going to do today.