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Jan08

What is Life without Optimism?

What is Life without Optimism?
Do you ever wonder what your life would be like if you lived it as a “victim” or do you have someone in your life who always sees the negative in every situation and makes every situation about them?
 
I have the pleasure of having many varied people in my life, family, friends, business colleagues, workshop delegates etc and it never ceases to amaze me how different everyone’s perspective is on life.
 
There are some people that have faced some of the worst challenges that life can throw at them which have left them physically disabled or who have lost spouses or family members prematurely and in their prime and yet continue to live every day with hope and possibility and then you get others who see everything in life as a challenge.
 
View Everything as a Personal Affront
They view everything in their life as a personal affront to them. EG: If their adult children choose to socialize with friends rather than be at home with their parents then this is seen as a punishment to the parent ie that the child is choosing to punish their parent by spending time away from home or doesn’t love their parent as opposed to this being a normal rite of passage of most 20+ year olds to be out in the social world. When they are late in coming home, they are presumed to have met the worst fate possible. Sometimes it gets so bad that one such pessimist stated the other night that they would rather end their life than continue to face the stress of wondering where their children were whenever they went out.
 
I was chatting to a friend who has a teenager who recently finished school and got his license and she was concerned that he hadn’t contacted her after a long trip – however her view was, I know that he must have arrived safely otherwise I would have heard differently, this is in stark contrast to the pessimist who says, he must be dead or had something really bad happen as I haven’t heard from him/her and so would rather not be around to face this eventuality, which is what they truly believe it is.
 
Can Bad Things Happen to our Loved Ones?
Can bad things happen to our loved ones? Yes – but is this justification for always seeing the worst in every situation and allowing this worry to consume every aspect of your life? This worry pervades every aspect of their life to the point that they are more unhappy than not and every event in life is prejudged and expected to have a negative outcome or be a direct reflection on them.
 
This is the exact definition that we use when explaining what pessimism is vs optimism ie that every bad situation to a pessimist is permanent and it affects every aspect of their life and everything is out of their control.
 
On the other hand I look at people who have had continual challenges, again I look at Naven who was left wheelchair bound in the prime of his life, has lost his job due to his disability and continues to face health and personal relationship challenges and yet keeps standing up and creating opportunities for himself and living life to the fullest. He embraces the optimistic view that bad situations or events are temporary or can be isolated and don’t need to affect every aspect of your life and with energy and effort can be changed.
 
Can he change the fact that he is paralysed from the chest down – no, will he ever walk again or have normal physical functioning – no but can he adapt to a new life style taking into account these limitations – yes! He plays wheelchair basketball, is completely independent, can live alone, fetch his young daughter from school, socialize with friends and even stand up with the aid of callipers, despite this being almost impossible.
 
Two Extreme Personalities
When we look at these two extreme personalities, one that embraces optimism and one that is a victim of pessimism, we wonder what it will take for the pessimist to realise that as individuals we have choices in life, particularly in how we feel and when we look further at how contagious feelings and emotions are, should that alone not be a motivation to want to move from pessimism to optimism?
 
To live a life continually in fear of what could happen and how negative outcomes are expected to be puts us in a negative spiral that unfortunately affects every aspect of one’s life and ability to really live, love and experience true happiness.
 
Optimism is a learned trait and how much more fulfilling would life be as an optimist continually looking at opportunities and choosing those that serve them and their families, friends or colleagues best.
 
It is not how long we live but how well we live that truly counts!