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Importance of Optimism

Ever had the feeling the world started the morning by wetting the bed and eating a bowl of manure to top it all off? There’s some danger there… a danger in thinking optimism is for the birds and negativity is the new hotness. That being right trumps being reasonable, emotional entitlement trumps patience, easily offended beats equanimity and mean-spirited reprisal should regularly karate-chopping friendly humor in the face.

It’s not like myopic self-interest is new, but when did our inherent “me-first” narcissist start giving toilet-cleaning swirlies to its more benevolent and upstanding big brother, Optimistic Outlook?

I’m not sure where we start down that rickety road to “all things failure” and I don’t know if I’m all that interested in laying blame. I do know I’ve been happy to jump on the bandwagon in moments of frustration and overload, but I’m frantically trying to unhitch. And while there’s still room for disagreement and disappointment (life happens, after all), there’s way more room for handling it with consensus and optimism. Way more.

Despite the seemingly increased popularity of cynicism, most people remain good. Life remains beautiful- a beauty found in things we’ve simply come to “expect” and often overlook.

So here’s something that sounds all “psychological”: Selfishness and its countless, self-interested motivations have always maintained a steady decibel level but its dominance or submission to optimism in our lives reads from a barometer that’s probably set internally. By that I mean we find what we choose to focus on. When we look beyond the constant stream of negative news, self-doubt and professional fear-mongering, otherwise overlooked gems of decency that form most folk’s personal foundation (YOUR personal foundation of inspiring bedrock) glistens a little brighter.

It’s the dude who waved me into traffic when I thought I’d be stuck watching an endless procession of cars go by. It’s the giddy smile of my kids when I walk in the door and the sacrifice of my Lady-Friend preparing another cardboard  meal so I can reach my fitness goals. It’s the satisfaction of helping others with no clear benefit to ourselves. It’s the easily pigeon-holed and overweight kid tenderly cradling his baby sister while she finds security in his arms. It’s the ticket lady in the parking garage who smiles and believes you when you say you really didn’t get a press pass parking validation. It’s the work acquaintance who cuts time out of his evening to cheerfully stop by and fix a fritzing electrical socket. It’s the grandfather who leaves his oxygen tank–and ultimately, his life– to run up the stairs to save his grandson.

In short, it’s the flecks of gold in the sifting sands of everyday.

The brightness of people, life and achieving our goals are too easily clouded if we take the lazy shortcut to cynicism, sarcasm and finding ways to be offended and victimized. For many of us, it’s habit. We do it all the time. Transcending that soul-clobbering stuff takes just a little more effort as we sift and prioritize our focus on the abundant grains of kindness, charity and humanity in others and ourselves.

Personally, I’ll take the combined brilliance of optimism and its resultant satisfaction and motivational inspiration- a refreshing perspective that easily counterbalances the dead-weight of sulking self-absorption and worry.

Just a thought. 

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