“Optimism, optimism, optimism. It’s great that you are so optimistic, but I’m just not that way. I’m a realist, and I see things as they are, and the facts of the situation determine if I am optimistic or not,” the email began. I’d love to be more like you, but being optimistic may make you feel better in the moment, but in reality, optimism changes nothing.”
I fully realize there are more people in the world who feel this way. It’s easier to let circumstances control your attitude than to thoughtfully work your attitude to positively impact your circumstances.
The email continues. “It’s easy for you to be optimistic. Your job is to sit at a desk and type a bunch of happy words into a computer and get paid for it. I’d be optimistic, too, of that’s all I had to do!”
I don’t think I’ve ever met the author of this email. It was sent anonymously, and that’s OK. I am never offended by a response like this. I view this as a positive opportunity to help this reader and others live a more optimistic life.
It’s easy to be optimistic when everything is going your way. Things are good at work, the economy is good, your love life is positive and there is an expectation that your positive life will not change.
Suddenly, without warning, there is a downturn in the economy and your company frantically looks for ways to cut expenses. You lose your job and your significant other becomes irritable at the change in circumstances and the uncertainty of your financial future. Circumstances can change without notice. You can choose to dwell on how unfair life is or you can find the positive opportunity buried within the negativity and move forward.
One of the only things certain in our lives is the inevitable uncertainty. Optimism, when you are on top of the world is easy, but when the future is uncertain and your outlook is dire, it’s difficult to find and optimistic person. When your optimism is needed most, that’s when it’s harder to muster.
Controlling your attitude and outlook is difficult for most people. They allow circumstances to determine their outlook. As their attitude plummets, so does their optimism.
Optimism properly applied is a way of life, not a here now, gone later state of mind that is controlled by external forces. It is your optimism that will guide you to a positive future.
In 2004, I was CEO of a company that was growing, thriving and providing great products and services to the incredibly stable housing market. Life was good. It was easy to be optimistic.
I’ve told you this story before, but with encouragement from family and friends, I decided to write a book about my father’s experience in baseball and war. Once completed, I began my search for a publisher. My first rejection came quickly, followed by the second and third … then the 11th, 27th, 49th, 63rd and 74th. After 74 rejections, what did I do? I submitted it a 75th time, and it sold. A reviewer said “Playing with the Enemy” became a surprise hit. A surprise to others, but not to me. I was always optimistic I would find a publisher and the book would succeed. I’ve since then written two more and have a fourth ready to go.
So, in 2006, I still was CEO of a company and a part-time author. Less that 18 months later, a massive implosion of the housing market destroyed my company, left me out of work. I lost almost everything. I was depressed for a few days, then I clicked my optimism back on and evaluated my opportunities. It appeared that in the midst of the Great Recession, my chances of landing a corporate position were bleak. I didn’t have the resources to start a new business, so, I decided I’d write for a living. I published two more books and began writing this column. It’s been a long road. My column still is expanding its reach, and I continue to write more books but, deciding to write full time was a risky decision that mustered all the optimism and positive energy I could find.
Here’s my point. If you allow your circumstances to determine your optimism … you have no optimism. You are a bobber floating in the water. The weather and tide will determine your fate. Optimism allows you to think past your current disaster. Your belief something better is coming encourages you to create the plan to make it so. As I say almost every week … “If you believe nothing better is possible, why would you try?”
Optimism in the worst of times, leads you back to the best of times.