Within five minutes of a conversation with most people, we can usually tell if someone leans toward optimism or pessimism. Their words, actions, tone and demeanour will likely give it away. If they are appreciative, grateful, sarcastic or mean, the signs will all be there. They will create an atmosphere around them that is either toxic, pleasant or neutral.
I was in the department store today when a man came from a neighbouring aisle, talking loudly to an employee he was walking away from. He said something like, ‘I don’t know why I even bother shopping here’, in an angry and highly audible tone. He had a scowl on his face, his inner eyebrows were dipped towards his nose and he was carrying items loosely in both arms.
It was clear that the store was out of, or didn’t carry, something in stock that he was looking for (not that he had any room to actually carry anything else). He wanted to make sure that everyone heard what he was complaining about and was basically stating to the world that he was a disgruntled offspring of a woman who was predominantly bitter herself.
His energy was negative, being anywhere near him made me want to go in the opposite direction and his attitude would have earned him a Nobel prize for being the most inappropriately and publicly inconsiderate customer of the month, to someone who probably had no control over the out of stock issue.
In that moment, I wondered what his problem was. Why was he such an angry man? I also wondered what his story was. Was he like this all the time or just today? I suspected that this was a pattern, as he appeared to act as if his childish behaviour was somehow acceptable.
Other than seeing him a while later putting loose items into the back seat of his car (as he apparently didn’t believe in carts or bags), I will likely never know. All I do know is that we actually do have control over whether we are mostly optimistic or pessimistic. I have been both, throughout my life, and sometimes within the same hour. Optimism definitely feels better.
We all have down times and no one is ever happy, all of the time. It is extremely possible that I managed to see him at his lowest point, as he was dealing with a much larger life stressor. It is also possible though, that he has been like that most of his life. Optimism or pessimism tends to be a learned behaviour or habit.
A larger-than-life personality, who is extremely passionate about optimism, is Mark Victor Hansen, co-founder of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Empire. He was one of the most energetic and dynamic speakers that I have ever witnessed. I first saw him speak in California in 2004 and have seen him live, in action, twice after that.
He explained that most of us are naturally conditioned to negative thinking and it is our responsibility to change that up, if we truly want to create a life that we want. He had us snap an elastic band on our wrist and reword any negative thought, word or phrase into the positive, whenever we caught ourselves.
For instance, if we are accustomed to saying that things never work out for us, we can rephrase that to say, ‘I am in the process of getting on track to my life goals and desires’. He assured us that we will accomplish what we consistently tell ourselves, as we are basically a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If we are always complaining, then we are wasting valuable energy that we could be spending on taking action necessary to make positive changes in our lives.
In the same way that an athlete needs to train their physical body to excel at their sport, we need to mentally train our mind to accomplish positive changes in our mindset. There is no way around it; this takes work and consistency.
I choose optimism because I have found that when my mind is set in the right direction, when I am grateful, when I am appreciative and when I am seeking the positive perspective, bright side or blessings in all situations, I am more likely to attract positive things, opportunities and situations into my reality.
In no way does this mean that I am exempt or immune to negative things happening in my life or the lives of my loved ones. It also doesn’t mean that I am always optimistic; I can certainly be a grouch with the best of them and have plenty of evidence of how negativity has festered in my own life.
What it does mean; however, is that I choose to focus on the good things that come out of the difficulties and do my very best to turn things around, as quickly as possible, when I am headed towards gloom. I have also found that people are much more attractive to be around when they are exuding positive energy. The goal is to also be one of those people for others.
Are you primarily pessimistic or optimistic? Would you want to hang around with yourself, on a regular basis? Hopefully we can aim to be optimistic the majority of the time, and not the other way around. Maybe the grumpy older man in the store today didn’t even know he had a choice.
‘Almost every successful person begins with two beliefs: the future can be better than the present, and I have the power to make it so.’ ~ David Brooks