Reality Check: The Actions of Optimism

The New Year has arrived. This year, the consistent sentiment that I’ve heard expressed is, “I hope it’s going to be better than last year!”
Will 2021 be a better year than 2020?
Some folks believe that it will be; others not so sure. One thing we can say with certainty is that we can’t predict exactly what will happen. Given that, what can we do?
It’ll come as no surprise that I’ll say that we can choose our attitude. We can choose whether we look at the new year with optimism or pessimism.
However, I’m pretty sure that if you feel like you’ve just gotten through a year where you had the stuffing kicked out of you, then deciding to choose optimism toward the new year isn’t all that simple. Even if you squeeze your eyes shut and try really, really hard, you may not be able to conjure up a magical genie who will offer you three wishes, one being a sense of optimism.
There is good news though, on the “choice of optimism” front. It comes from what could be described as a kind of behavioural hierarchy in us. Although our feelings and attitudes, such as optimism, are not that easy for us to control, we do have quite a lot of control over our actions. And our actions have a remarkable influence on our feelings.
This is a bit backwards from how we often live our lives. For example, have you ever said, “When I feel good, I’m going to do XYZ”? What I’m suggesting here is that rather than wait till you feel good, go with, “If I do XYZ, then I will feel good.”
This way of looking at actions and feelings helps with motivation, especially the motivation to get started at something difficult. Rather than waiting till you feel good to do something positive, this approach suggests doing it anyway, despite your feelings. The action itself will change your feelings.
It all boils down to this: If you want to feel optimistic, take optimistic action.
What is optimistic action? Excellent question! Here are some thoughts.
Optimistic actions focus on the long-term. For example, if you have ever planted a seed, you’ve carried out an optimistic act, haven’t you? When you plant your veggies and flowers, you are looking weeks or months ahead, with optimism. If you follow the example of Johnny Appleseed by planting trees, then you’re an optimist indeed, aren’t you?
Learning is also an optimistic action. Whether your learning is formal or informal, self-guided or program-directed, when you work to gain knowledge and understanding, you are acting in a way that says “I want to know something tomorrow that I don’t know today.” That’s optimistic.
Exercise is optimistic too, isn’t it? Trying to build a stronger, healthier body says that you want to be in good shape for the future. In fact, any health-related activities are optimistic—the good food choices you make, the positive social interactions that you choose—all of those have the inherently optimistic viewpoint of a potentially positive impact.
Finally, actions that encourage or support another are optimistic endeavours. Through actions, they say, “I believe that you have potential.”
What actions do you consider optimistic?

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