Is Optimism all it’s Cracked up to be?

A recent trend caught my attention in the headlines as it scrolled past last week.  I rode along the transit options of New York City and learned that optimism is a state of mind connected to longevity, better physical and mental health, and greater happiness.


Sounds fabulous, doesn’t it?


Maybe this topic deserves a second look considering our unpredictable, wonky world of late.


While we are young, we have limited control over our environment. The restrictions our parents decide for us, not to mention the body and brain passed to us set us on course to build our expectations. Some level of optimism develops along with dozens of other characteristics. All these facets of personality impact our choices, coping capacities, and our drive to make and achieve goals.


Future prospects and a strong belief in ourselves sound like a great thing, doesn’t it? For the most part I would have to agree. Yet there are situations we all notice (red flags) that are there to give us fair warning of taking that blind optimism too far.


You know that building in the odd part of town that keeps turning over from one store or restaurant to another only to sputter out in a few months? A new set of bright-eyed visionaries go in all gang busters and doll up the place with big promotions and a terrific idea. They give it all they’ve got, yet somehow it sinks like all the attempts before them. They obviously possessed optimism. So why didn’t it work out?


That’s the danger in optimism. That bright perspective that “I can do anything” is extremely helpful to motivate us and get us to that end goal, but it must be tempered with a dose of good old realism. It turns out that wide open optimism can run amuck without attending to facts and good judgement.


One of the common characteristics of those with a strong sense of optimism includes a factor you may recognize in your own life. Something referred to as locus of control is a vital key to our outlook. In other words, how much freedom do you have to make your own choices?


The more control you possess in your financial, career, recreation, and social life, the more optimism you are likely to experience. That doesn’t mean you need to be wealthy or be the boss, or a social butterfly with awards in your favorite sport. It simply means you feel that elbow room. You can scale back on your spending if you want. You know realistically where you stand and where you are going along with a roadmap to get there. You see safe options in your path and are happy with what you have, while simultaneously looking forward to the fruits of your labor.


Realistic optimism means that you take a close look at risks and make your own decisions with a calculated plan. When the unexpected happens, like the pandemic, you keep that optimism by making new choices and remembering many situations are temporary and you aren’t alone.


So, if you are tempted to start up a new business in that same spot where all the others failed because you possess that extra magic something, maybe you should tap the brakes. Keep your optimistic approach and apply a little fact-checking to your process. You may have that magic something but look your risk in the face. Examine it well before you dive in.


Hard work, perseverance, and good planning do bring success but what’s cool about optimism is the draw of something good around the next corner.


Despite the downturn in our economy or the disputes surrounding us in our government, there can be ways to survive, even thrive.


Find a way to control what you can in your own corner.


Be realistic about the situations you face and most importantly, find things to look forward to.


Optimism is about hope and great expectations.


I encourage you to seize hold of a ray of optimism today.

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