I’m an optimistic person. Except when I’m not. Then I’m all “uuughhhh” and “Catastrophe!” Which is why the concept of “practicing” optimism felt hard–or at least not genuine. After all, the whole point of my practice toward authenticity is to NOT fake it ’til I make it. Yet practicing optimism continually comes up in the research as vital to growing our resilience.
So…maybe I was thinking of it wrong. Too often I equate “optimism” with “cheerfulness.” Optimism has nothing to do with a sunny disposition. Yes, it certainly goes hand in hand; it likely even allows us to bounce forward back into our happy place. But we don’t HAVE to be cheerful, sunny or happy to be optimistic. We can still feel aching, sore, sad and even stuck and still feel optimistic.
Because I think optimism is the belief that the challenge of the present isn’t permanent. We are wired for change and struggle and growth. That’s it. That belief is all that optimism is. You can sit at home on your couch in your pajama pants and a family size bag of cheese balls crying and eating all your feels–and still be optimistic. You are practicing optimism as long as between handfuls, there is a part of you that says “This isn’t going to last. This. Is. Not. Going. To. Last.” In fact, on occasion, PJ’s and junk food is just the right kind of self care we all need.
Let’s be real, though. That’s not always easy. Sometimes it gets even darker. It’s not jammies on the couch, but it’s wide awake at 3 am with waves of grief or despair crashing over us faster than we can catch a breath. During those times, the way we can practice optimism is to siphon off of someone else’s supply. *This is also a hint a tomorrow’s resiliency practice, btw.* Make the point to actually ask that trusted person in your life, “What hope do you hold for me right now as I am going through this period of my life?” Let them toss you that life line.
I would love to hear about your stories of optimism (or struggles with optimism). Leave a comment or send me a message!
Join me tomorrow for Day 2 of our practice: Find Your Tribe.