Optimism is undoubtedly a more pleasant way of looking at life. It allows for hope to reign, for light to shine when times get dark. It’s so ingrained in human nature that it’s been found even our languages gravitate towards the use of positive words.
However, optimism can only bring us so far. Being really optimistic isn’t sufficient to getting that amazing job, and it certainly isn’t sufficient to make you rich and famous. But what if you pair optimism with a drive to chase an ideal life? Or, if you’re more of a realistic optimist, simply a good life?
That brings us to two types of optimism—passive and active. Consider two cases:
Case A – Passive Optimism
Mary gets a really low score on her first exam of the semester, and the exam is worth 25% of her final grade. She knows she didn’t study as much as she could have, but she’s optimistic that she’ll still be able to pass the class with a ‘B’ average.
Case B – Active Optimism
Mary gets a really low score on her first exam of the semester, and the exam is worth 25% of her final grade. She knows she didn’t study as much as she could have, but she’s optimistic that she’ll still be able to pass the class with a ‘B’ average. In order to achieve that, she reads the assigned text before class, pays attention in class, asks her professor questions when she’s confused or needs clarification, studies her lecture notes afterwards, and does her homework. By the time the second and third exams come around, she achieves that ‘B’ average as well as a mastering of the material.
Do you notice the difference between the two cases? Case A and B are almost the same, except for the extension of effort in Case B. The action, the effort exerted in Case B, is the biggest difference between them.
There’s an aspect of productivity that I think sometimes gets overlooked when people tell others to “look on the bright side”. Having happy thoughts is not enough. It’s also about being able to will yourself to be better and to make the most out of your situation.
Out of all the sayings about optimism, I think my favorite is, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Yes, it’s a cliche, but it talks about taking action: when life sucks, go make something out of it. Why wallow and wait until the lemons rot? Go ahead and make that lemon tart you’ve always wanted to make!
As always, it’s easier said than done. It requires a lot of self-awareness, self-reflection, and willpower to apply active optimism to everyday living, to ensure that I’m always looking and moving forward to something better. It’s not an easy pursuit, mainly because it requires so much more effort than just hoping “things work out”. But active optimism, the idea that things will get better because you will them to be better, pays off.
“Just do it. Some people dream of success, while you’re gonna wake up and work hard at it.” –Shia LeBeouf | Via Giphy
Until next time,