I am an optimist, unrepentant and militant.
After all, in order not to be a fool an optimist must know how sad a place the world can be.
It is only the pessimist who finds this out anew every day.
This may seem a strange quote to start a blog on optimism. After all, as a coach, shouldn't I be telling you that the world is a wonderful place, everyone is lovely, nothing will ever go wrong and thinking happy thoughts will make happy things happen?
I remember reading Ustinov's quote in his autobiography when I was a teenager. It was one of those light bulb moments, the effects of which have stayed with me ever since. Up until then, my picture of an optimist was someone who was always sunny, to whom nothing bad ever happened and who sailed through life with a smile and a song. But surely that is unrealistic when there is unhappiness, unkindness, poverty, bereavement, illness, etc., in the world?
But Ustinov's quote put things in perspective for me. It made me see that optimism is an attitude of mind, of seeing the world for what it is, warts and all, embracing it and finding the best way through. It is a much more powerful way to approach life than waking up every day thinking the world is a great place and being kicked in the head and heart at every turn.
Optimism is about determining to make the best of the circumstances at that moment. I repeat, "make the best of the circumstances at that moment"; this is not trying to pretend that everything is glorious and lovely. It is a way of taking control, of giving yourself choices of how you react to whatever life throws up. At any moment, you can stop and decide how to feel (see my previous blog on Catch It, Check It, Change It). You can take a breath and look at how to make this moment work for you or for someone else. What can you learn to use at another time? Would a smile lighten the situation? Can you change your mood from anger to conciliation? Can you change the situation from a difficulty to an opportunity?
By adopting an optimistic attitude, you can keep on a more even keel, be less buffeted by the bad things and be more energised. It can also keep those voices of doubt at bay; as Lucille Ball once said, "Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself."
If this has struck a chord with you and you want to find out if coaching will support you, book for a Light the Blue Touchpaper session.