You may find that you have been telling yourself that practicing optimism is a risk, as though, somehow, a positive attitude will invite disaster and so if you practice optimism it may increase your feelings of vulnerability. The trick is to increase your tolerance for vulnerable feelings, rather than avoid them altogether. [... ] Optimism does not mean continual happiness, glazed eyes and a fixed grin. When I talk about the desirability of optimism I do not mean that we should delude ourselves about reality. But practicing optimism does mean focusing more on the positive fall-out of an event than on the negative... I am not advocating the kind of optimism that means you blow all your savings on a horse running at a hundred to one; I am talking about being optimistic enough to sow some seeds in the hope that some of them will germinate and grow into flowers.
No matter how bad things got, no matter how anxious the staff became, the commander had to 'preserve optimism in himself and in his command. Without confidence, enthusiasm and optimism in the command, victory is scarcely obtainable.' Eisenhower realized that 'optimism and pessimism are infectious and they spread more rapidly from the head downward than in any other direction.' He learned that a commander's optimism 'has a most extraordinary effect upon all with whom he comes in contact. With this clear realization, I firmly determined that my mannerisms and speech in public would always reflect the cheerful certainty of victory-that any pessimism and discouragement I might ever feel would be reserved for my pillow.
Stephen E. Ambrose
Optimism is a deadly vice of gigantic proportions lodged into the human psyche by Satan. It is the enemy of reality. We see a bad situation and optimism prevents us from extrapolating that. Instead we think, "Oh, it's bound to get better." So we plunge into the thicket, sure that it will thin, denied the aerial view that would show us the true, unacceptable horror of our lot. Perhaps optimism is good for prison escapees, who have no choice but to plod on. The rest of us are not well served. It poisons our judgment.
Like every other destruction of optimism, whether in a whole civilisation or in a single individual, these must have been unspeakable catastrophes for those who had dared to expect progress. But we should feel more than sympathy for those people. We should take it personally. For if any of those earlier experiments in optimism had succeeded, our species would be exploring the stars by now, and you and I would be immortal.
If we define optimism broadly as the tendency to maintain a positive outlook, then realistic optimism is the tendency to maintain a positive outlook within the constraints of the available "measurable phenomena situated in the physical and social world" (DeGrandpre, 2000, p. 733). With respect to fuzzy meaning, realistic optimism involves enhancing and focusing on the favorable aspects of our experiences. Examples include being lenient in our evaluation of past events, actively appreciating the positive aspects of our current situation, and routinely emphasizing possible opportunities for the future. With respect to fuzzy knowledge, realistic optimism involves hoping, aspiring, and searching for positive experiences while acknowledging what we do not know and accepting what we cannot know.
Sandra L. Schneider
My education was dominated by modernist thinkers and artists who taught me that the supreme imperative was courage to face the awful truth, to scorn the soft-minded optimism of religious and secular romantics as well as the corrupt optimism of governments, advertisers, and mechanistic or manipulative revolutionaries.
It's best to not confuse optimism with hope. Optimism is a psychological attitude toward life. Hope goes further. It is an anchor that one hurls toward the future, it's what lets you pull on the line and reach what you're aiming for and head in the right direction. Hope is also theological: God is there, too.
If we have any role at all, I think it's the role of optimism, not blind or stupid optimism, but the kind which is meaningful, one that is rather close to that notion of the world which is not perfect, but which can be improved. In other words, we don't just sit and hope that things will work out; we have a role to play to make that come about.
Many of the most successful men I have known have never grown up. They have retained bubbling-over boyishness. They have relished wit, they have indulged in humor. They have not allowed 'dignity' to depress them into moroseness. Youthfulness of spirit is the twin brother of optimism, and optimism is the stuff of which American business success is fashioned. Resist growing up!
B. C. Forbes
Optimism hopes for the best without any guarantee of its arriving and is often no more than whistling in the dark. Christian hope, by contrast, is faith looking ahead to the fulfillment of the promises of God, as when the Anglican burial service inters the corpse 'in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ.' Optimism is a wish without warrant; Christian hope is a certainty, guaranteed by God himself. Optimism reflects ignorance as to whether good things will ever actually come. Christian hope expresses knowledge that every day of his life, and every moment beyond it, the believer can say with truth, on the basis of God's own commitment, that the best is yet to come.
The average pencil is seven inches long, with just a half-inch eraser - in case you thought optimism was dead In fact maybe there is a lesson there for how we should approach the future...with fourteen parts optimism - anticipating what could go right and the benefits - and one part pessimism - anticipating what could go wrong so we can avoid them.
Even in a gleefully negative comic, there is optimism, although it's slightly hidden: It comes out through a comic character's sheer tenacity. He keeps going and trying to find some sort of fulfillment regardless of his perpetual failure record. That's a form of hope, a form of optimism. Really hokey I know, but it's true.
But black folks have never really been optimists. We've been prisoners of hope, and hope is qualitatively different from optimism in the way that there's a difference between The Blues and Lawrence Welk. The Blues and Jazz have to do with hope while the other is sugarcoated music which has to do with sentimental optimism.
When our hopes for performance are not completely met, realistic optimism involves accepting what cannot now be changed, rather than condemning or second-guessing ourselves. Focusing on the successful aspects of performance (even when the success is modest) promotes positive affect, reduces self-doubt, and helps to maintain motivation (e.g., McFarland & Ross, 1982)... Nevertheless, realistic optimism does not include or imply expectations that things will improve on their own. Wishful thinking of this sort typically has no reliable supporting evidence. Instead, the opportunity-seeking component of realistic optimism motivates efforts to improve future performances on the basis of what has been learned from past performances.
Sandra L. Schneider
Optimism is a wish without warrant; Christian hope is a certainty, guaranteed by God himself. Optimism reflects ignorance as to whether good things will ever actually come. Christian hope expresses knowledge that every day of his life, and every moment beyond it, the believer can say with truth, on the basis of God's own commitment, that the best is yet to come.
J. I. Packer
Some people argue against both optimism and pessimism in favor of so-called realistic thinking. They distrust optimism on the grounds that it causes us to sugercoat problems, discount risks, and exaggerate the upside. Pessimism, on the other hand, is criticized as too downbeat, de-energizing, and generally damaging in its impact. This crown prefers realism as the neutral and objective middle ground.
For action, whatever its immediate purpose, also implies relief at doing something, anything, and the joy of exertion. This is the optimism that is inherent in, and proper and indispensable to action, for without it nothing would ever be undertaken. It in no way suppresses the critical sense or clouds the judgment. On the contrary this optimism sharpens the wits, it creates a certain perspective and, at the last moment, lets in a ray of perpendicular light which illuminates all one's previous calculations, cuts and shuffles them and deals you the card of success, the winning number.
It was not possible for us to produce the same optimism and the same kind of humour or irony. Actually, it was not irony. Lichtenstein is not ironic but he does have a special kind of humour. That's how I could describe it: humour and optimism. For Polke and me, everything was more fragmented. But how it was broken up is hard to describe.
Magic enables man to carry out with confidence his important tasks, to maintain his poise and his mental integrity in fits of anger, in the throes of hate, of unrequited love, of despair and anxiety. The function of magic is to ritualize man's optimism, to enhance his faith in the victory of hope over fear. Magic expresses the greater value for man of confidence over doubt, of steadfastness over vacillation, of optimism over pessimism.
Cynicism creates a numbness toward life. Cynicism begins with a wry assurance that everyone has an angle. Behind every silver lining is a cloud. The cynic is always observing, critiquing, but never engaging, loving, and hoping... To be cynical is to be distant. While offering a false intimacy of being "in the know, " cynicism actually destroys intimacy. It leads to bitterness that can deaden and even destroy the spirit... Cynicism begins, oddly enough, with too much of the wrong kind of faith, with naive optimism or foolish confidence. At first glance, genuine faith and naive optimism appear identical since both foster confidence and hope.But the similarity is only surface deep.Genuine faith comes from knowing my heavenly Father loves, enjoys, and cares for me. Naive optimism is groundless. It is childlike trust without the loving Father... Optimism in the goodness of people collapses when it confronts the dark side of life... Shattered optimism sets us up for the fall into defeated weariness and, eventually, cynicism. You'd think it would just leave us less optimistic, but we humans don't do neutral well. We go from seeing the bright side of everything to seeing the dark side of everything. We feel betrayed by life... The movement from naive optimism to cynicism is the new American journey. In naive optimism we don't need to pray because everything is under control. In cynicism we can't pray because everything out of control, little is possible. With the Good Shepherd no longer leading us through the valley of the shadow of death, we need something to maintain our sanity. Cynicism's ironic stance is a weak attempt to maintain a lighthearted equilibrium in a world gone mad... Without the Good Shepherd, we are alone in a meaningless story. Weariness and fear leave us feeling overwhelmed, unable to move. Cynicism leaves us doubting, unable to dream. The combination shuts down our hearts, and we just show up for life, going through the motions.
Paul E. Miller
Hope and optimism are different. Optimism tends to be based on the notion that there's enough evidence out there to believe things are gonna be better, much more rational, deeply secular, whereas hope looks at the evidence and says, "It doesn't look good at all. Doesn't look good at all. Gonna go beyond the evidence to create new possibilities based on visions that become contagious to allow people to engage in heroic actions always against the odds, no guarantee whatsoever." That's hope. I'm a prisoner of hope, though. Gonna die a prisoner of hope.
Imagine someone is fast asleep in a very dark room. The friend who opens the curtains to let the light in will be cursed and hated. But the day had long since started, and the friend still sleeping curses the light, and prefers the darkness. In the same way, those who bring light to a dark situation will be cursed and ridiculed for their optimism and love. They will be scorned and rejected for their joy and hope. But optimism, love, hope, and joy should be pursued anyway. In all things, you must trust in the knowing your brain will never know, the feeling your heart can never reveal, and the Spirit your own soul still hasn't even begun to explore. This is the profound gift of a firm grasp on faith.
Sean Patrick Brennan
A word about my personal philosophy. It is anchored in optimism. It must be, for optimism brings with it hope, a future with a purpose, and therefore, a will to fight for a better world. Without this optimism, there is no reason to carry on. If we think of the struggle as aclimb up a mountain, then we must visualize a mountain with no top. We see a top, but when we finall yreach it, the overcast rises and we find ourselves merely on a bluff. The mountain continues on up. Now we see the "real" top ahead of us, and strive for it, only to find we've reached another bluff, the top still above us. And so it goes on, interminably. Knowing that the mountain has no top, that it is a perpetual quest from plateau to plateau, the question arises, "Why the struggle, the conflict, the heartbreak, the danger, the sacrifice. Why the constant climb?" Our answer is the same as that which a real mountain climber gives when he is asked why he does what he does. "Because it's there." Because life is there ahead of you and either one tests oneself in its challenges or huddles in the valleys of a dreamless day-to-day existence whose only purpose is the preservation of a illusory security and safety. The latter is what the vast majority of people choose to do, fearing the adventure into the known. Paradocically, they give up the dream of what may lie ahead on the heighs of tomorrow for a perpetual nightmare - an endless succession of days fearing the loss of a tenuous security.
Saul D. Alinsky
The first question we must address deals with optimism, the possibility of achieving our goal. Are we in a position where we can actually hope to effect change? Assuming we become convinced that there are reasons for optimism, we move to the next question. Are we cetain that we want change? The stories about EHMs, jackals, and suffering around the globe strike raw nerves, but now we demand absolute proof that our grievances justify the efforts change will demand. Third: Is there a unifying principle that will validate our efforts? We look to ascertain that we are not merely seeking to impose our moral, religious, or philosophical values on others but instead are intent on creating something of true and lasting universal benefit. And finally: What can we each do? You and I personally need to evaluate our talents and passions. What are our individual options and desires? How do they fit into the bigger picture?