Everybody in the world wants happiness. Ask around and you will see. Optimism is a way to reach happiness and if you want to go this way, you must first believe that it will take you to where you want to go.
When we talk happiness at my workshops, many people highlight the obstacles to happiness. They share stories of heartache, disappointment, frustration, failure and pain. For them, you can only be in a state of happiness when everything in life functions at a 100%. When I ask them, “What makes you happy?” they mostly list what needs not to happen, which shows a focus on the past and on avoiding pain.
When I draw their attention to this focus, they make a list of what needs to happen for them to be happy. This is better, but we quickly discover that one painful thing is enough for them to feel unhappy, but to feel happy, they need the whole list to happen at the same time. This way, they make sure that unhappiness is easy to reach and happiness is really hard.
When my clients understand that this is a problem, they usually ask, “Ronit, how do we change the formula?” and one of the best ways to do it is by practicing optimism.
Optimism is the hope and belief that the future will be OK. It is hard for many people to comprehend optimism. Many of them say, “Ronit, optimism is an illusion. There is no guarantee any of it will come true”, and I say, “That’s 100% true, but so is pessimism, and if you have no guarantee, why not pick the better illusion of the two?”
Optimism takes practice
Optimism is a muscle we use to carry the burdens of life
Optimism is a way of life and it is tested every time we face something that makes us unhappy. Think of it optimism as a muscle. You need your optimism muscle to carry the burdens of life. If you do not have this muscle, you are weak and every wind will throw you off balance. If you practice optimism, you are stronger and can manage life better. Life throws optimistic people just as many challenges as it does pessimistic people. The optimists just have the power to look beyond them and keep going.
The optimism muscle is tested many times throughout the day. The more we use it, the stronger it gets. When things are not happening the way we want them, whenever we are not happy about something, our optimism is tested. Just like lifting weights at the gym. If you have been lifting 20kg for years and never stretched yourself beyond that, you will never know you can lift 50kg.
Optimism and hope are siblings and they require a good ability to visualize. We imagine the future all the time. We can choose to visualize it dark and cold or shiny and warm.
Optimism requires practice. Many philosophers and spiritual guides encourage this practice in everyday life. Remember, optimism is future oriented. It happens when you choose a possible good future and experience it in your mind (remember the illusion?). We do it all the time. On the other hand, anxiety is the practice of pessimism. We choose a possible bad future and experience it in our mind.
Quantum Physics claims is that thoughts vibrate and attract the same vibration in return. It works like an echo or a mirror. You send the universe a vibration of courage and it echoes it and sends back more courage. You send this huge mirror a vibration of defeat and it reflects it and brings you more defeat.
If you want to practice optimism, you need to let go of the past and keep looking forward. When life is overwhelming and you cannot do this easily, start with being in the now. Enjoy the moment. Ask yourself
- What makes me happy now?
- What good am I getting from this?
- What is the “full half” of my experience?
- What am I grateful for now?
Gradually, your life will echo more happiness, more good, more satisfaction and it will be easier to imagine a happy, good, satisfying future.
A daily dose of optimism
Here is a poem written by the educator and philosopher Christian D. Larson about 100 years ago. It is more like a promise to oneself to be happy and optimistic. It was adopted as The Optimist Creed by Optimist International. I encourage you to print it (click for a high resolution image), hang it where you can see it and read it every day.
Optimism is like a vehicle that can bring you to a happy state of life. This vehicle needs to be in good shape and functioning well for you to reach your destination, so keep practicing. Remember, happiness is a choice!