The Power of Optimism: How Optimism can Help Make for a Better Life
The Power of Optimism: How Optimism can Help Make for a Better Life
What is optimism? Why should we want to make our lives better? What is the power of optimism? How can people become more optimistic? How can people harness the power of optimism to improve their lives? The problem with life is -- it's hard. There is not one person who has, at least once in life, hoped, wished, or desired to change life for the better. Where does positive change begin? It begins with our perspective, disposition, and outlook on life. Problems are solvable. It is feasible to reach our goals. We cannot imagine or accept the best solutions to our problems if we lack the capacity for optimism. Optimism is more than a philosophy on life; within optimism is the power to change ourselves and in turn, our lives. Optimism can help us come up with that great idea that saves the day; optimism can help us get through a tough day or tough, long period of time. Optimism has the power to maintain physical health and develop the precise skills necessary to cope and adapt to life's numerous challenges. Optimism is a key ingredient of most people's definitions of success. Today, we will hear what optimism is and what adopting optimism can do for us with some focus and application.
About the Problem:
Life is tough. It is an on-going battle. This speech will identify types of challenges people typically face in life and the typical responses to such situations. The speech will also address the issue of perspective or outlook when facing a dilemma. The true problem is not the problem itself; the problem is the process of adopting a method of reaction and perspective that assists us the most effectively when we wish to effect change in our lives. Moreover, the speech will inform listeners as to what optimism is and how it can best serve us in the universal struggle to live.
Optimism is a perspective, when effectively adopted, will enable long-term, systemic positive changes in a person's life in matters that are professional, personal, and physical.
Body of the Speech
Let me begin by explaining what optimism is not. The opposite of optimism is pessimism. The word for bad in Latin is "malus." The superlative adjective of bad, which is worst, is "pessimus" in Latin. The etymology of the word pessimism reveals the fundamental perspective of pessimism. Pessimists believe in the worst and most negative possible outcomes for all, or at least most, occurrences in life. Pessimism contends that the bad and the evil outweigh the good. How does pessimism affect a person? Forster aptly quotes Former President of the American Psychological Association Seligman in his discussion of optimism:
"I have studied pessimism for the last twenty years, and in more than one thousand studies, involving more than half a million children and adults, pessimistic people do worse than optimistic people in three ways: First, they get depressed much more often. Second, they achieve less at school, on the job, and on the playing field than their talents augur. Third, their physical health is worse than that of optimists. So holding a pessimistic theory of the world may be the mark of sophistication, but it is a costly one. It is particularly damaging for a child, and if your child has already acquired pessimism, he is at risk for doing less well in school. He is at risk of greater problems of depression and anxiety. He may be at risk for worse physical health than he would have if he were an optimist. And worse, pessimism in a child can become a lifelong, self-fulfilling template for looking at setbacks and losses." (Forster,"Focusing on Strengths and Optimism," Page 2)
Pessimism is a state of mind studied by prominent psychologists for several decades. There is scientific evidence that supports that a persons state of mind directly corresponds to how the body functions as well as how the person's life progresses. Depression has become fair more widespread in the United States of America and in other countries in the 21st century. Though there are many causes for depression, pessimism has been proven to be one of them. As depression has affected more and more people, more information about the affects of depression on the sufferer and those around the sufferer have become more accessible and become part of mainstream common knowledge. Depression can lead to excess weight, eating disorders, sleep disorders, suicide, isolation, various paraphilias, and other side effects. Therefore, pessimism is dangerous and potentially fatal.
Practicality and realism are essential to survival. An excess of negativity can endanger survival. Negative moods occur naturally. It is unhealthy to never experience a negative mood, even if for very briefly. People who mask anger and negative moods are in some ways more dangerous than those people who display explosive tempers. It is the excess and persistent focus upon the negative that most distinctly characterizes pessimism. Pessimism can also lead to persistent unhealthy psychological and emotional states. Scioli et al. argue "that optimism overlaps with extroversion, while pessimism tends to merge with neuroticism. In summary, two related trends are noted in the literature on personality and health." (Scioli et al., 1997) This statement reinforces the importance of state of mind on physical health. This statement additionally reinforces the validity of the study of optimism and pessimism upon human beings. Optimism is literally saving lives everyday. Pessimism alters moods, personality, and diminishes a healthy state. It is no exaggeration to say that optimism is good us. Pessimists are neurotic, paranoid, anxious, and unstable. Optimists can cope, live longer, and handle stress more expertly, when they do experience stress at all. Relative to a pessimist, an optimist experiences less stress because an optimist does not interpret as many occurrences or conditions as stressful.
Burris condenses pessimism into what she calls "The Three P's." (Burris, 2006) Those P's stand for: Personal, Permanent, and Pervasive. (Burris, 2006) Pessimists take every action personally and blame themselves for the outcome of a situation. Pessimists also believe that they have always repeated the same faulty behaviors and they are incapable of learning new, productive behaviors. Finally, pessimists believe that the mistakes they make are systemic and that nothing ever goes well for them. No need to worry or fear, pessimists, there is help! Optimism can be learned as
"…hope and a more positive perspective can be taught or induced, my personal experiences with the process of Dependable Strengths Articulation (DSA) has shown me that people can be successfully encouraged to focus on their personal strengths. It is my belief that people who do a good job of articulating their strengths and then focusing on those strengths in their planning and their daily activities will become more optimistic. Their optimism will increase because they will be more focused on plans and activities where they will succeed. This will happen because they will be directing their attention to activities where they were successful in the past, the areas where they were using their best strengths." (Forster, "Focusing on Strength and Optimism," Page 5)
Burris proposes that optimists or pessimists turning over a new happy leaf, can keep the three P's, but change their meanings. Optimists make a situation personal by acknowledging the difficulty of the situation and it has better prepared them for similar situations in the future. Optimists may acknowledge a repeated mistake and also see a new opportunity to learn from that same mistake. Optimists think pervasively that they are still making mistakes, but overall, they acknowledge progress in themselves.
Optimism not only assists people to live longer, but also optimism helps people live better. Optimism can significantly improve a person's quality of life. Wrosch and Scheier claim that
"Optimists, as compared with pessimists, are more likely to persist in their pursuit of goals when confronted with difficult life situations. Optimists take advantage of the opportunities for development to a greater extent than pessimists do. Optimists might also cope more effectively when goals are blocked." (Wrosch & Scheier, "Personality and quality of life: The importance of optimism and goal adjustment," Page 64)
Optimists are more likely to make goals and reach them. Optimists are more likely to perceive opportunities for advancement and have the courage to seize those opportunities. Optimists will handle what life throws their ways. Optimism is integral to coping with the struggles of life effectively or at all. Optimism helps people who are already healthy and helps people who have been diagnosed with terminal diseases. Research shows that
"Optimism predicted positive attitudes and tendencies to plan for recovery, seek information, and reframe bad situations so as to see their most positive aspects. Optimists made less use of fatalism, self-blame, and escapism, and they did not focus on the negative aspects of the situation or try to suppress…