The privilege of optimists

Posted by Diego Jimenez on

With all the talk about divisions in religion, politics and otherwise. And the attachment of sentiments of these factors on trending issues, it has become quite a task to speak about optimism without an association with some sort of fanatical explanation towards it’s meanings.

Being optimistic according to Wikipedia simply implies “a mental attitude reflecting a happy belief that the outcome of some specific endeavour, or outcomes in general, will be positive, favourable, and desirable”. While an optimist sees the best in very dire situations, the pessimist sees hopelessness sometimes even in the view of so much hope.

Being hopeful for a better tomorrow, keeping a positive attitude regardless of circumstances might may come forth, and basking in the joy of the moment are all typical signs optimism.

As Winston Churchill once said, ” A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, the Optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”

By far, optimism is a trait that should be desirable as it is has been seen to be associated with happier people. While seeing the better in every situation might be addressed by pundits with catchy phrases like “Life is not a bed of roses”. There is an underlying truth with regards optimists which enables them actualise goals far more easily. And that is the fact that optimist will see hope in what most of us will call a “hopeless” situation. It is said that Thomas Edison tried and failed over a thousand times to create the electric light bulb. A thousand times!! . If it weren’t for the sheer determination and hope exhibited occasionally by some optimistic individuals, some of the most revolutionizing ideas could have been lost underneath the earth.

Do not get me wrong however, as I honestly believe that even pessimists have a role to play in the development of the human race. A typical example would be the Airplane and Parachute, while the Optimist puts his dreams to life, not minding the obstacles or hurdles he would face in the actualisation of his dream, which is to build an airplane and see man soar the skies like a bird, the pessimist quickly realises the dangers involved and takes additional steps to make flying safe for all by creating parachutes. These inventors have exhibited what psychologists call “explanatory styles”.

Explanatory styles refer to the three attributions that a person forms about an event. Did it happen because of me (internal) or something or someone else (external)? Will this always happen to me (stable) or can I change what caused it (unstable)? Is this something that affects all aspects of my life (pervasive) or was it a solitary occurrence (limited)? Pessimistic individuals on the other hand tend to view problems as internal, unchangeable, and pervasive, whereas optimistic people are the opposite. Pessimism has been linked with depression, stress, and anxiety (Kamen & Seligman, 1987).

A question which comes to mind so many times is the age-old question about a Pessimist becoming an optimist. While it may take quite an effort trying to adapt the mental connections of the brain to perform in a way not used to, it is possible for optimism to be learned, by way of psychological immunization.

Optimism isn’t about a gross disregard for bad stuff because whether we like it or not, bad stuff does occur. Optimism is a trait which tends to define how we interpret occurrences in our day to day lives. In a nutshell it is being caable of exerting a certain level of positive energy towards events affecting us.

While there are no preferences between Optimism and Pessimism, there have been some notable advantages of being an optimist over the years, some of which are:

Optimism generally elongates life

Some unconfirmed quarters have continually hinted the need for studies related to Optimism to be taught in schools thanks to studies which indicate that optimists generally live a longer life, and suffer less from hypertension and other heart related diseases largely because of their approach towards medication and daily lives. While a cancer diagnosis is seen by pessimists as an impending death sentence, the Optimist on the other hand remains ever hopeful most times till the very end.

It is stated that optimists live about a decade longer than their pessimistic counterparts.

Optimism pulls one closer to success

While this is a debatable point, it is common knowledge that one who is more optimistic will more than likely persist on their goals until they are actualised. Added to their ability to very easily shake off past failures and draft new plans putting into consideration the lessons learned at the failed attempt.

One of the most important qualities which make Optimists tend towards the higher levels of the food -chain is their ability as risk takers. And while some tend to take very carless risks, it’s usually only a matter of time before those daring risks give rise to a revolution. A typical example of this scenario would be Elon Musk’s Tesla and Space X programs. While he could have bought an island somewhere and lived happily ever after thanks to his success with pay pal, he decided to risk a lot to make these visions become a reality, and today we are at the beginning of a revolution, all thanks to optimism.

Optimism promotes a better love life.

While Elon Musk might not be the perfect example here, Optimism tends to lead to easier conflict resolution as it enables an optimistic partner to seek common ground and “move forward” .

Optimism keeps the pills away

In a mock research conducted a couple of years back, some patients suffering from the common cold influenza were subject to take drugs which they were made to believe was a cure for their ailment and in no time, most of the patients began to show signs of progress whereas the supposed pills were nothing but sugar minted pills. The mind of an optimist works in a like manner, as he believes that he will get better, and begins to make concrete plans to that regard. Soon enough, he gets on his feet and begins to execute activities which he believed he would while sick. Some medical practitioners have even gone further to say that health is a thing of the mind.

All in all Optimism promotes a healthier and happier living because where there is hope, there is way.


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