Is optimism synonymous with a “rose colored glasses” view of the world? A Pollyanna perspective? The unrealistic or impossible?
Technically, optimism is defined as a “hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.” There is also a broader definition set forth by the 18th Century philosopher Gottfried Leibniz that “this world is the best of all possible worlds” and the belief that good must ultimately prevail over evil in the universe.
So, I’ll go with it. I’m a proud optimist. Accuse me all day long. I will find hope in almost any circumstance and I do believe that love wins.
And, I believe that optimism can be learned if we are open to it. We can choose a victim story of failure and loss, or we can choose a story of openness to learning, self-responsibility, and growth. I choose the latter. Are you with me?
Yesterday I was skiing in what I will call “butt cold” conditions. In fact, my butt was cold! It was not only snowing but the humidity was higher than normal Colorado conditions and the cold seeped in at every opportunity. In another time of my life, I would have beat myself up with an old tape, “you suck at being adequately prepared in the outdoors.” I hadn’t eaten anything in the morning. The gloves I was wearing were more suited to a sunny spring day than a bitter cold one. I had tried a different set of leg layers and they didn’t work well. I could have rolled an old tape of criticism. Instead, I noticed myself taking a more optimistic view! “You can keep some hand warmers in your kit bag.” “You know how to provide fuel for your body. What can we learn from today?” “Maybe compression tights aren’t the best base layer on cold days,” and on and on.
When we shift from failure as a total loss to failure or difficulty as a temporary and specific condition, it opens the field up to learn, take responsibility, and make specific changes in our behaviors going forward. It worked for me yesterday. And today, I’m staying in by the fire.
More? Check out this article on Learned Optimism.