Definition of Optimism
In life, there will be people who will always have a cheerful spirit and will keep smiling regardless of the challenges or issues in their path. These people will strive to ensure nothing keeps them down or weighs them down. They will live happily and never pass hints of discomfort. While it is indeed possible to feign happiness or positivity, these people genuinely show it and always find ways and means to downplay anything that people fear. As most will tell you, they are in control of what makes them happy as well as what makes them sad. Nothing sours their spirit and their positivity often supersedes their problems or state. Living such a life is indeed the epitome of optimism. Optimism cannot be feigned, and for one to be considered a true optimist, they have to showcase true and real positivity. Instead of seeing the glass as half empty, optimists see the glass as half full. This article will seek to determine a simple definition of optimism while also looking at some of the attributes of optimists as well as the misconceptions about optimists.
Definition of Optimism
According to Boden (2014), optimism and pessimism concepts are pegged on concern people’s expectations for the future. These two are closely tied to how people view the world as well as their resolve to keep fighting while consciously ignoring the fact that the odds are against them. There have been many definitions of optimism but each point towards the general understanding of the term. One of the most common and used definitions of optimism belongs to Scheier and Carver who defines it as “the tendency to believe that a person will generally experience good rather than bad outcomes in life” (1985). Seligman et al. (2007) does not offer a specific definition of the term but offers an explanatory view of the term. He defines optimism as the common-sense view that sees the glass as half full, or always seeing the silver lining, or consistently expecting a Hollywood ending to real troubles.” He, however, differs with the general perception and understanding of the term and says that the basis of optimism lies in the way you think about causes rather than relying in positive phrases or images of victory. The way people view the causes of things in their life is indeed what separates the optimists from the pessimists. The basic and common understanding of the term is, therefore, flawed and should not be taken to be standard. Life’s troubles will indeed always be there and expecting them to fade away or even magically come to an end is not synonymous with being optimistic. Challenges will always be there, and one should expect life to get bumpy at times. However, wishing them away or thinking they will end simply because you are smiling and ‘staying positive’ will not help you overcome them.
What Optimists do differently
Winston Churchill said optimists see opportunities in any difficulty while pessimists see difficulties in every opportunity. Optimists look at things from a different perspective, and as many people would admit seem happy. This moves one to wonder or ask what they do differently or what sets them apart. Below are some things optimists do differently:
- View tomorrow as a new day
- Ralph Waldo Emerson once encouraged people to finish each day and be done with it. He added they should feel that they have done what they could with the day. They should forget the absurdities and blunders as soon as they creep in and look forward to tomorrow which is a new day. They should start their new day with high spirits and be not encumbered by their old nonsense. The above is not only encouraging but also enlightening. How people view tomorrow differentiates between the optimists and pessimists. Optimists know the difference between bad days and good days and take each differently. Nothing they did yesterday matters today.
- Believe good things will happen to them
- Optimists also believe that life is full of good and bad days. According to Holmes (2017), describes optimists as the people who anticipate that the peak that’s right around the corner when they are in the valley. She continues to say that it is this “buoyant attitude that can better help you cultivate resilience.” Optimists know life will always have its frustrations but have their eyes glued to the better days while trying to change their current state. They do not wish away their bad days but live through them while keeping an eye on the better days ahead.
- Merry in their strength and believe they have what it takes to make a difference
- Optimists are also confident and believe in themselves as well as what they can do. They also believe that they can make a difference in the world. Regardless of the challenges they might face in life, optimists are always aware of the strengths and therefore believe in themselves. They understand and are also aware of their limits but still choose to believe they can make a difference in the world and the lives of other people.
- In his article, David Mezzapelle (2013) says that to live a long joyful life a person ought to adopt a bright mentality that allows them to let go of a grudge. Forgiveness is indeed therapeutic, and the more you forgive and let go of the instances when people hurt you, you get to enjoy your life more. However, as many people will say, forgiveness is easier said than done. Conversely, it is only through forgiveness that we get to live in the present and optimists understand this.
- Take chances or risks
- Life presents us will different opportunities, but not everyone is always willing to take them. However, as you will come to realize, optimists take chances and always look on the brighter side of life. While most people will cringe or ignore the opportunities that come before them because of fear of the unknown, optimists choose to take their chances simply. Fear always holds people back and to conquer it, one ought to take charge of their life and cast it aside. Optimists aim at controlling their life and their fear. Therefore, they take their chances and learn from the gains and losses that come with their choices.
- Always grateful or thankful
- Research continually shows that people who practice the art of gratitude are always happier, healthier, and also more effective. Optimists, therefore, make it a point always to be grateful because they know it adds on to their life.
Misconceptions about optimists
One of the greatest misconceptions about optimists is that they do not feel pain or sense the frustrations of life. However, the truth is, they do, and some of them are pushed to certain extremes. What sets them apart, however, is the fact that they choose to learn and push aside their pain, and even forgive those who wrong them. They are not thick-walled, and at times some will even cry but it is the resolve to keep soldiering on that sets them apart.
The other misconception is that they do not have bad days. Everyone had bad days, but few choose to take tomorrow as a new day and therefore, end up reeling in the past mistakes and frustrations.
- David, M. (2013). How To Be An Optimist: 10 Habits That’ll Help You Look On The Bright Side. Huffington Post. Retrieved December 28, 2017, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/31/how-to-be-an-optimist-10-_n_3354246.html
- Holmes, L. (2017). 6 Things Every Optimist Believes. Huffington Post. Retrieved December 28, 2017, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/04/optimist-beliefs-for-a-better- life_n_5641812.html.
- Scheier, M., & Carver, C. (1985). Optimism, Coping, and Health: Assessment and Implications of Generalized Outcome Expectancies. Health Psychology, Vol. 4, No. 3, pg. 219 – 247.
- Seligman, M. E. P., Reivich, K., Jaycox, L., & Gillham, J. (2007). The optimistic child: A proven program to safeguard children against depression and build lifelong resilience. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.