Reality Check: Prepare, Then Forge On With Optimism

Back in my childhood, roughly a thousand years ago, there were a few popular doomsday scenarios that described how awful the world would be when I grew up. If I managed to make it to adulthood, that is.
For example, nuclear war was not a far-fetched possibility. There was also the global cooling problem—that’s where the earth experiences another ice age and gets taken over by woolly mammoths. I particularly remember a woolly mammoth sketch on the cover of an early scribbler, a tad disturbing for any child with a vivid imagination!
Thankfully, the nuclear war didn’t happen. In fact, new generation nuclear reactors may offer a great solution to our energy issues. The ice age didn’t happen either; the anticipated horror of a freezing earth now replaced by a similar, but opposite, horror.
And yet, we’re still here. The earth still functions. Personally, I’m grateful to have made it to seasoned adulthood, despite those frightening childhood expectations.
How about today’s kids? It’s disturbing to hear that many young people suffer from depression, hopelessness, despair. Why? Could it have something to do with a popular narrative that generally reflects despair, hopelessness, and anger?
None of us can say with absolute certainty exactly what is going to happen tomorrow. However, there are some pretty consistent phases—through the seasons and through our lives.
We know that winter follows the harvest season. We prepare for it. Preparation for the long non-growing season used to include stocking up on winter vegetables in the root cellar, pickling beans and salting pork, and ensuring there’s hay in the barn and wood in the woodshed.
Now, we can go to the store year-round for an array of fresh tropical fruits and foods that would have my grandmother shaking her head in disbelief.
However, preparation, and perhaps more importantly, the habit of preparation, is still valuable. For example, if you are concerned that there’s a big storm coming (spoiler alert—there will be a big storm this winter) then it’s good to prepare. Have some fresh water, stock up on canned beans, and maybe stash away a good book and a flashlight for when that storm comes.
If you are concerned about the long term viability of your job, you could prepare. Research other employers, make contacts, learn new skills; reduce your expenses. You may not need those preparations, but it’s good to prepare.
There are so very many things in the future that we can worry about. We don’t know what will happen. And we can respond with all those helpless feelings—anxious, depressed, hopelessness—that go along with not knowing and not having control.
Or, we can do what we can with what is under our control. We can prepare to the best of our abilities; to the degree that is under our control.
And then what?
Then, we can forge on with our lives with hope and optimism. We’ll adjust our preparations as needed, corresponding to the situation as it inevitably changes.
We humans are astoundingly resilient and innovative. Both individually and as a group, we adapt remarkably well to changing conditions.
Some folks believe that we are only given challenges that we are equipped to handle. While I’d like to think that’s true, I don’t know that it is.
I do know that we can choose our beliefs about challenges. We can believe that we are going to be defeated and act accordingly. Or we can believe that if we prepare to the extent possible, we will be resilient enough to face the challenges that present themselves. And that can lead us to forge on with optimism in whatever we do.
Which belief do you think leads to a more satisfying, useful life?

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