Mandatory Optimism ?

If you haven’t ventured to the links above the banner yet, the WHY NextStarfish and ABOUT NextStarfish might be worth a visit.

On the ABOUT page you’ll find my ten point manifesto – where I try to clarify the ethos for this blog a little more.

One of the points is:

HOPEFUL BUT REALISTIC – cynical pessimism and rose-tinted optimism both lead to denial and inaction

What exactly do I mean ?

Watching or reading the news some days it seems there’s a large section of our society, and probably the world in general, that generally believes ‘everything is pretty rubbish, getting worse, and there’s nothing we can do about it’. Whether they’re discussing the economic outlook, climate change, employment prospects, politics, pollution, the sports results or the weather – they appear to have a natural disposition to be pessimistic about things. Perhaps it makes them less vulnerable to disappointment, or perhaps they struggle to visualize positive outcomes, either way the end result can be a belief that it isn’t worth wasting your time trying to change anything.

On the other hand it also seems there’s another, almost as large, section of society that generally believes ‘most things aren’t as bad as ‘they’ make out, and anyway no doubt problems will work themselves out in the future’. Again, whether referring to the economic outlook, climate change, employment prospects, politics, pollution, the sports results or the weather – they appear to have a natural disposition to be optimistic about things. Perhaps optimism is comforting, insulating people from hard realities or bleak outlooks, or perhaps they’ve previously been so lucky as to never to face real hardship in life, so find it hard to ever ‘expect the worst’. Again, either way the end result can be a belief that there’s no need for them to act, or at least no need to do very much, or with any urgency.

The first group often describes the second as naive. The second often describes the first as cynical.

But whether you see the glass as being half-empty – with no chance of getting any more, or half-full – with no need to get any more the result is the same . . . there won’t be any more.

Half empty, half full – the truth is there’s room for more in the glass.

I once heard an economist describe both optimism and pessimism as traps !

The trick, he said, was to see things as they really are.

He then went on to explain that no matter how bleak the situation (and for most of us the economic situation was, and still is, pretty bleak) there was always something you could do, some action you could take to improve things. The best way to do this is to understand the current situation, along with what is wrong, and what can be done to improve things, as accurately and realistically as possible – but, and this is vitally important, remain focused on how to improve them, and hopeful that we will succeed.

It was impossible to do anything other than agree.

Read more about the importance of not being pulled too far into optimism or pessimism, and the importance of staying focused and hopeful about our own actions on the Co-Intelligence Institute, or by Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Smile or Die, or Viktor Frankl’s powerful book, Man’s Search for Meaning.

 

RELATED ARTICLES – Next Starfish – A Manifesto, How Do You Want Your Story to Go, Life Lessons Learned Climbing a Deadly Volcano, 10 Ways You Can Have Enough Money and Stuff

Photo by via Wikicommons

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