Reality Check: The Case for Living Optimistically

Are you surrounded by messages of hope or messages of disaster? Maybe you’re thinking of a tragic story or situation right now. After all, good news doesn’t seem to abound on the TV screen, facebook page, or even in the newspaper!
If we have influences in our life that lead us to believe that we have a future of optimism and opportunity, then we’ll likely take different actions than if we anticipate a future of fear and gloom, constantly expecting catastrophe right around the corner.
I was reminded of how fear affects action by a recent Psychology Today article entitled Fear Shrinks Life by Dr. Scott F. Stanley. He says, “Having hope for the future affects how we live in the present…” He also makes the excellent point that the world is a mess, but…it has been for a long time!
There will always be messages of doom, unless the doom actually materializes and then it won’t matter, will it? Living in continuous fear of doom affects what we do today. Instilling a fear of doom in children could colour their perspective for a lifetime.
Do we make effective decisions when our choices come from a state of fear? Stanley suggests not. When we’re afraid of the future, that fear can keep us from starting the steps that contribute to a satisfying life.
He says, “For example, putting off or foregoing looking for a mate, having children, getting more education, or seeking some desired job. Ending well usually entails having started.”
If you fear that a good future isn’t possible, why bother putting in effort? However, if you exert no effort, how likely is it that you can ever achieve a positive outcome?
Seeing an optimistic future makes a difference—for friends, family, community, health, progress. Will I choose to be pleasant? Or not? Will I choose to save money? Or blow it all now? Will I read a book, learn a skill, lift some weights, eat a healthy meal, help a friend, show up to work? All of these are optimistic forward-looking acts.
While we don’t have complete control over what we see and hear, we do have some choice about the company we keep and what we allow into our lives.
You may be concerned that I’m suggesting that we close our eyes to anything bad and just think happy thoughts. No, no. I’d be concerned by that too. Reality includes suffering and dangers. We need to prepare, take preventive actions, and stay alert to threats.
However, there is good news, too. You might not hear it, but it’s there. I sometimes seek it out to maintain some balance. For example, I learned from the Good News Network ( that a UK company is opening a huge carbon-capture plant that can turn thousands of tons of CO2 into baking soda. And a rare orchid thought extinct in Vermont has been discovered again, not extinct at all.
Yes, these are small things. But they are good, aren’t they?
One suggestion to develop confidence is to act “as-if” you already have it. Confidence develops because acting “as-if” changes you.
We have choices. We can act “as-if” we have a good future. It’ll make the present better.
If you’d like to read the Fear Shrinks Life article, let me know

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