Optimism, what is it good for?
A few pro’s:
- Optimism is a Political Act;
- Things do get better all the time;
- Against all the odds, the world is becoming a happier place (this is the last point from the above link, but bears to be repeated);
- Why optimism is more rational than pessimism;
- It’s healthier;
A few quotes:
We need to take our politics public and take on the whole culture of cynical defeatism. On some days, I think we need an optimism uprising.
(from the above “Optimism is a Political Act, from WorldChanging);
All appears to change when we change.
“In more affluent societies, people give higher priority to free choice and self-expression, which accordingly, play an increasingly important role in shaping their wellbeing,” the authors write. “People living in more tolerant societies tend to be happier, regardless of their own beliefs.”
From the Guardian article “Against all odds, the world is becoming a happier place”.
And sometimes, simple things make me optimistic, like when I’m googling ‘solar beam’ in order to get a nice picture, and the first hit is an epynomous company in South Africa, installing solar collectors, active since 1978.
Optimism is the main (if not the sole) engine behind progress: activists, entrepreneurs, and idealists start up new actions, projects and companies because they believe that in the future this will benefit them, the world, or both. Even in bad times. Maybe especially in bad times.
Yes, a great deal of these new initiatives will fail. But those that do succeed have helped made the world a better place, even if only marginally so (but sometimes more than that). If nobody had the optimism to develop new initiatives, then society would come to a grinding halt.
Or, to put it another way: there are other important tools, like — for example — passion, drive and focus. But without optimism, you’ll never get beyond where you are today.
Now, we need to get rid of the idea that optimism is just a Pollyana ‘everything is great’ attitude. Instead promote the idea of intelligent optimism. Yes, I expect the counter-argument that pessimism (or ‘realism’) is needed as a counterweight against ‘blind optimism running us headlong off a cliff’, but that’s why I’m calling for intelligent optimism.
There is plenty of intelligent optimism in real life: just check the links on the rightmost sidebar (and don’t hesitate to recommend me more: I hope to be adding to them regularly). Is it equally represented in SF? That’s a question for the next post…