We’ve likely all run across people whose outlook on life can be summed up that way. And not just on a bad day – pretty much all the time.
This pessimistic person is conditioned to focus on the down side of life.
But is this the perspective you want? Or would you choose optimism?
Of course, we all know that person who has taken optimism to extremes – their ultra-perky and bubbly personality can be bit wearing. That person who says, “It could be worse!” after a devastating hurricane or “Look on the bright side!” when you’ve lost all your money in a stock market correction.
So you might prefer to be a bit more realistic and keep a more moderate perspective, connected to a healthy dose of common sense.
Having a positive outlook allows us to believe in ourselves, take on new challenges, discover solutions to problems and keep going when the going gets tough. (I know, there are so many nauseating sayings about optimism – just try to appreciate the message.)
Picture this: You’ve been eagerly awaiting a wonderful weekend picnicking, riding your bike and soaking up the sun, only to wake up in lockdown. It’s natural and normal to feel disappointed and frustrated. In fact, I’d be concerned for your mental health if you didn’t feel just a tad disgruntled with the surprise Mother Nature decided to bestow.
Once you get over your disappointment, though, you may choose to look at your day from another perspective. Perhaps you can use the time to curl up with that book you never seem to have time to read. Maybe you can pull out your family’s favourite recipes and cook up a storm. Changing your attitude turns a miserable day complaining about what you missed into a day you actually enjoy.
Along with helping you stay healthy in mind and body, optimism makes you a lot more fun to be around. Do you really want to hang around the person who is on a 24-7 downer? Or would you rather spend time with the person who smiles and laughs, who looks forward to the possibilities each day offers, who can accentuate the positive (while respecting your feelings)?
Just think how much we would have lost if it hadn’t been for optimists. What about Galileo? Would we have modern science if it hadn’t been for his curiosity? If Christopher Columbus had said, “Nah, it isn’t worth the effort,” where would we be? If Albert Einstein was a pessimist, would we have E = MC2, even if we haven’t got a clue what it means? (By the way, it was Einstein who said: “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”) And what about those forward-thinking optimists who put men on the moon (and brought them home again)?
Most of us aren’t Galileos or Einsteins, but we can choose to shift our perspectives and avoid becoming cantankerous.
Sustaining an optimistic outlook can be as simple as learning to appreciate the small things in life and taking each day as an opportunity waiting.
Ultimately, it’s up to you as to what kind of perspective you have and how you face daily challenges.
Remember the photos of those fascinating prehistoric cave drawings? The pessimist calls them graffiti. The optimist says, “Art!”
It’s all about your point of view.
Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications.