Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Personal Strength of Optimism - A Realistic Perspective

Sometimes I’m amazed that there can be so much joy in life. 

Other times, I’m amazed at how difficult life can be. 

Both perspectives are legitimate, and I sometimes experience both in the same day. So it goes.

It’s easy for me to remember some of my challenges:

  • In a winter storm, my car slides off the Interstate and into a ravine.
  • I’m not chosen for a career-changing opportunity for which I diligently prepared.
  • Our best graphic designer resigns to accept a government job.
  • I injure my back.
  • A colleague misappropriates $12,000 from my company.
  • My wife discovers she has cancer.
  • My portfolio loses 90% of its value.
And so on. There are, of course, many others. Even the minor challenges have been discouraging, but I know my life is no more difficult than anyone else’s.

The most important thing I’ve learned about disappointment, frustration and pain is that when it’s fresh it's huge, and it can prevent me from appreciating the positives. The upsides are always there. But when bad things happen, the upsides are overshadowed. With the disadvantages of my situation staring me in the face, it's hard to see the advantages. I feel weak, so how can I be strong? With costs piling up, it's tough to get excited about benefits. When faced with so many problems, it isn't easy to believe in solutions. Feeling limited by my crisis, I fail to appreciate the possibilities.

The true optimist doesn't ignore reality. He or she takes a good, hard look at both the positive and the negative aspects of reality.

Some encouragement about optimism...

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems.” - John W. Gardner, American author (1912-2002 )

"I have had dreams, and I have had nightmares. I overcame the nightmares because of my dreams." - Jonas Salk, American biologist (1914-1995)

“When one door of happiness closes another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” - Helen Keller, American author (1880-1968)

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” - Martin Luther King, Jr., American civil rights leader (1929-1968)

Here's what I've learned...

When bad things happen, I need to be strong enough to recognize the possibilities, to work with the resources available to me. At the very least, I can always learn from what has happened. Even if my world is turned upside down, I have the freedom to move forward in a different way. What I do next will open up a new succession of fulfillments and opportunities that would not have been possible if I had not been visited by adversity.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., , Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .


Beth said...

This is one of your best. There are enough seeds here for an entire orchard.

Thank you, Denny.

zelly said...

Thank you for sharing this TRULY inspirational and just what I needed today. I am raising 7 children (3 my own). It has been difficult and challenging to say the least. I keep optimistic and keep faith that God will provide and he has never let me down. Help others and he will help you!

Anonymous said...

moving through some life upheavill now and feel like everything could go wrong. it's hard sometimes to stay the optomist. thanks for that PEACE.

Steve DeVane said...

Good words, Denny. Thanks for sharing. I've been in those places where the frustration blocks out the rest of the world. I appreciate this optimistic post.

Kabolobari said...

Really inspiring piece!