“Deep, solemn optimism, it seems to me, should spring from this firm belief in the presence of God in the individual; not a remote, unapproachable governor of the universe, but a God who is very near every one of us, who is present not only in earth, sea and sky, but also in every pure and noble impulse of our hearts.”
Helen Keller – Optimism
I am an optimist by nature. This doesn’t mean that I don’t get worried, afraid, or negative at times, but my core belief is that everything will work eventually out somehow. It’s not that I don’t see problems or that I’m unaware. It’s just that I don’t want to live in a state of fear or dread. A friend told me that things are bad, getting worse, and that there’s no hope that they’ll get better. Certainly history supports this idea. From the Holocaust to Ebola, there has always been something to be afraid of. Evil and injustice are and have always been rampant. Insanity has reigned. Sometimes the world seems like a hopeless place on both small and large scales. Unemployment, racism, disease, sex slaves, child molestation, drought, global warming, and on and on it goes.
We may not be able to solve all the world’s problems, but as individuals, here are some things we can do:
· Pray. Prayer works. When seeing something bad, whether it’s a car accident or bad news on the television, instead of becoming afraid or angry, say a prayer. Give the problem to a higher power.
· Practice gratitude. Yes, there are a lot of bad things going on in the world and maybe even in our own lives. But there are good things as well. Can we find those good things and say thank you for each of them?
· Donate time or money to something that really touches your heart. It doesn’t have to be a lot of either, but even a little of your time or money are greatly appreciated.
· Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. There is a seemingly-infinite number of needs. You can’t meet them all. You can’t even meet a lot of them. Pick what you can do and say a prayer for the rest.
· Take care of your life. Take care of your health, your environment, and your relationships.
· Limit the amount of negativity that comes in. I am very careful about how much news I read or watch. Since most of it is bad or alarming, I choose to not watch it. If it’s really important, I will find out, but most bad things that we fear tend to pass, perhaps replaced by other bad things, but they pass nonetheless. In the same vein, I am also careful about how much pessimism I allow from others. If it gets to be too much, I politely excuse myself.
· Limit the amount of negativity that comes out. This includes complaining and gossip especially.
· Realize that many of our problems are in our minds. That doesn’t mean they aren’t real, but the truth is, many of them aren’t. Many problems start with something that is real, but then is brought to incorrect or illogical conclusions.
· Finally, and perhaps the most important thing, have a Purpose and live it out. Specifically, spend as much time as you can in it. You may find, as I often have, that being out of Purpose is the real problem. Sometimes when I’m irritable, needy, or discouraged, I find what I need above all else, is pen and paper, or a computer, and 30 minutes or so to write. That shows me what my real problem is – that I haven’t been writing. Irritability is replaced with forgiveness. Neediness is replaced with love. And discouragement is replaced with enthusiasm. Actually, all three are replaced by love. I become more attentive, more loving, and more expressive. I’m ready to Get Started and Keep Going and I become more liberated from negativity.
Every time I Get Started and Keep Going, I want to Get Started and Keep Going some more. In If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland says “(T)he more you use this joyful, creative power – the more you have.”
We have the power to change our perspective, simply by doing our work. That’s one more reason for optimism.