I got a very good question in a comment about this post, and I want to repeat it here before you read the blog:
Bodhis Question: It doesn’t seem that you are very optimistic when you say you truly believe that things are bad and getting worse.
My answer: You caught that did you Bodhi? I wondered if someone would. It is very easy for me to hold apparently contradictory viewpoints. I am a believer in Global Climate Change and in Peak Oil and I do think things are going to get very, very bad:
- Worst case: Billions could die, including me and my loved ones.
- Best case: another Dust Bowl and Depression that makes the 1930s look like Romper Room.
And yet I consider myself confident and optimistic and encourage all of you to be too. Optimism should never be a denial of the facts! Only a holding onto a deeply held hope and faith in the present moment.
Death and pain are two great certainties of life. We will ALL experience them. The only greater certainty is finding hope or joy in this moment if you will only look. An optimists looks for joy amidst the pain.
I have a very simple message for you today, and it boils down to this: your circumstances don’t determine your happiness, your attitude toward those circumstances does. Basically, whether you are an optimist or pessimist decides the general course of your life.
Optimism will grow like a flower if the soil be properly prepared. ~~ARTHUR LYNCH
Last week I talked to you about a problem I had with a Ranger. It appeared the Forest Service was working hard to find a way to keep vandwellers and full-time RVers out of the Forest. As I’m sure you are all aware, we had a LOT of comments on that post running the gamut from outrage and extreme anger, to calm and reasoned.
I believe the attitude expressed in many comments was a much greater danger to our happiness than this minor problem with the U.S. Forest Service; and that is a prevailing pessimism and negativity toward life. Some commenters seemed convinced that it wasn’t a small, local issue, but a huge problem that just went to show that the country was going to hell and we were all doomed. Many were convinced that the evil, vile politicians and lobbyists who run our government, the equally monstrous corporations and Forest Service were dead set on taking all of our liberty and all our money from us and we were powerless to stop them—just bend over and get ready to take it!
Those comments reflect a very broad cynicism I see and hear extremely often. I do not share that point of view at all; in fact I very forcefully reject it as much too pessimistic. I am fundamentally an optimist who believes that everything will be alright in the end. I am convinced that the general outcome of your life is determined by whether you have an optimistic or pessimistic point of view.
The predominant quality of successful people is optimism…. Your level of optimism is the very best predictor of how happy, healthy, wealthy, and long-lived you will be. ~~BRIAN TRACY
Today, I strive with all my strength to be an optimistic person, and as I have become more optimistic, my life has dramatically improved. Most of my life the opposite was true; I was a total pessimist, always thinking the worst was going to happen and then saying, “See, I told you so!” when it did.
For as long as I can remember, I have been a fearful person. Because I was afraid, I was timid, reclusive and never fit in. There are reasons I was fearful (I’ll tell you more about that in a later post) but I believe that many of us are simply born afraid. Fear is a normal, natural human instinct, but for whatever reason, some of us are born with too much of it, and I think that describes me. Others are raised in fearful situations and so they become more fearful as time goes on. All of us are constantly bombarded with horrible images and news by the media so our natural tendency to fear is amplified and increased, even among people with a normal and healthy amount of fear. The result is that fear is totally rampant in our society
Each of us copes with fear in different ways; some people turn it outward as anger and rage. Others turn it inward as depression, self-hatred and low self-esteem. No matter how you cope with fear, it always leads to an unhappy life, and so I was never a happy person. I was always mildly down but it just seemed like I was shy and withdrawn so I made it through life just fine; no one knew how fearful I was.
As I grew older one of the ways I tried to deal with my fear was to think of the worst thing that could possibly happen (and I was fairly sure it would happen) then I tried to find a way to survive that and tell myself that it would be all right. But now I know that was an illusion of safety, but in truth it was a prison of despair.
As bizarre as it seems, in my mind that made me an optimist because only an optimist could think he would survive all the horrible things life threw at him. It never occurred to me that only a pessimist would have such negative expectations out of life because I truly believed that I would never be happy. The best I could hope for was to survive life with the minimum of pain.
Optimism is joyful searching; pessimism is a prison of fear and a clutching at illusionary safety. ~~KATHLEEN A. BREHONY
I love this quote! When confronted with an obstacle or problem, an optimist backs up and starts to look hopefully for a solution. It may be extremely dark right now, but that doesn’t have to lead to despair, it simply means you have to start looking for the light, because it is there WAITING TO BE FOUND! On the other hand, a pessimist turns a mole-hill into an insurmountable mountain and quickly losses hope, turning it into a prison of fear.
Optimism refuses to believe that the road ends without options. ~~ROBERT H. SCHULLER,
An optimist looks at this minor problem with the Coconino NF and sees a tiny road-block with many ways of getting around it. No big deal! A pessimist sees doom and gloom on the horizon as far as the eye can see. All the corrupt and totally evil, Law Enforcement Officers politicians, lobbyists and corporations in the country are lined up to prevent him from using the National Forest because they hate the poor and they just want to get his money: “I might as well give up right now, I have no hope of living as a vandweller.”
I can already hear many of your responses, “But we really are loosing our liberties, things really are bad and getting worst. You’re just sticking your head in the sand!” This quote is my answer to that:
The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy. ~~DIETRICH BONHOEFFER
As an optimist I don’t deny the very real problems all around us, you’re right, things are bad and getting worse. I personally believe they are going to get unbearably bad! But I have not resigned to a life of misery because of the problems around me. I won’t settle for that! There are still many good options if I am bold and creative enough to take them. By the grace of god I stumbled into vandwelling and found an alternative way of life I love. There have been many problems and bad times, but I persevered and found solutions for every problem–and my life got better and better. My whole goal with all my websites is to tell you about those solutions so your life can get better and better too!
The positive outlook that optimists project does not come from ignoring or denying problems. Optimists simply assume that problems are temporary and can be solved, so optimists naturally want more information about problems because then they can get to work and do something.
Pessimists are more likely to believe that there is nothing they can do anyway, so what’s the point of even thinking about it? ~~ROSABETH MOSS KANTER
Today, many of you are at a cross-road; you are sick and tired of the boredom and tedium of your life and so you dream of becoming a vandweller. But all you can see are all the problems and all the reasons why you can’t possibly do it. You have two choices:
- You can give up hope, hang your head and stay in your prison of fear clutching at the illusion of safety, or….
- You can hang onto inspiration and hope and creatively look for solutions for the problems. Then, boldly step out into the unknown, demanding a better life.
This is my advice for you:
- Keep your thoughts positive, because your thoughts become your words.
- Keep your words positive, because your words become your behavior.
- Keep your behavior positive, because your behaviors become your habits.
- Keep your habits positive, because your habits become your values.
- Keep your values positive, because your values become your destiny.
Your destiny is not determined…
- by politicians or lobbyists in Washington DC,
- by a rich, greedy corporation
- by a bureaucrat who wants to take away your freedom,
- by a Ranger having a bad day.
No, your destiny is determined by your thoughts and attitudes, by your outlook on life. No one can ever have control over that but you. Each moment of each day you get to choose what your attitude will be. Will you be governed by fear and gloom, or you will choose hope and optimism instead?
Optimists find joy in small things. They enjoy sunsets, a good conversation with a close friend; and they enjoy life in general. They are more concerned with having many small joys rather than having one huge joy. ~~ROBERT M. SHERFIELD