Did you smile and shrug? (optimist)
Did you contemplate the question? (realist)
Did you shake your head, knowing this will end badly? (pessimist)
My wife is an optimist. No matter the situation, she tends to give people the benefit of the doubt. Me, I tend to hedge my bets a little bit. I live more so by the thought, “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” What’s the big difference? I’m not sure that this makes me a pessimist, but maybe a realist?
It makes me wonder if both of us are just protecting ourselves in a way. I can tell you this, she is definitely the most ‘happy’ person that I know. It’s almost a child-like innocence. Some may look at it as a form of naivety.
My mother had the same naivety (spoiler alert, I married someone like my very own mother #win). In fact, my mother had someone comment that she was so naive, to which she stated, “I’m naive by choice.” This was her choice. Her choice to not be “made aware” of those things that were mostly inconsequential, or sometimes even common-knowledge, but none-the-less things that were negative or basely offensive.
On the other hand, I’ve been working in the world long enough to see things that I would prefer my wife not know about. Things that have made me question a bit of humanity at times, but still hope that humanity wins the battle. In this, I choose to hope that people would respond positively, but I also have not allowed myself to hope so vehemently as to set myself up to be astonished if they do fall short. There is safety in this thought process. It protects my emotions and psyche, I suppose. Though this may protect me from the lower dips into negativity, it also can keep me from truly enjoying the peaks of happiness.
I’ve had friends that no matter the situation, they only viewed the negative-possible outcomes. If they won a million dollars, they would complain about the taxes they would have to pay for it. All in all, they were emotionally taxing to be around. When they were positive, it was like trying to start a campfire. You would get excited about the little spark, nurture it, try and encourage the little flame to grow, and then exhale a little sigh of disappointment when the flames petered out, leaving a mere puff of smoke. Sadly, it was a psychotic dance of sorts — life’s music was just never to their liking.
Most of the time, I would say that the safest place is to be somewhere in the middle (realist). But of the three, who is the happiest? If life or situations fail me, I’m prepared emotionally to operate in a range that is neither too high, nor too low. My wife operates in a more broad plane, but she has the ability to not dwell at the low-end — or more accurately — chooses to exist and thrive at the positive end of the spectrum (optimist). Then there’s the pessimist. They occasionally reach for the positive, but grasp it with only their fingertips, destined to fall and land flat-footed on the negative with an exclamation of, “I told you so.”
We tend to gravitate toward those people and situations that make us the most comfortable. Take inventory of your world. Stop, look around, you’re there. What/who do you see? The FBI calls this a clue. There’s your answer.
Do you like what you see? If you do, congratulations. If not, you can choose to change. It may take some work, but life isn’t free, nor “fair,” as my own mother would remind me — with a smile (optimist).
I know that there is one way to work toward happiness. It’s something that takes some repetition. It’s something common in those that I know that are optimistic. In a word, “gratitude.”
Every person I know that exudes optimism seems to have this one trait, they are grateful. They are grateful for the little things. They are grateful for the big things. But they don’t just sit back and bask in their gratefulness — they ACT on it, they pass it on through service.
Think about ‘that friend’ that is always cheerful. Think about their characteristics. Think about the activities that they are involved in. Are they engrossed in their own world or are they always reaching out to others? No-brainer, right? They are always the ones that check on others. They do little things that are simply thought of as “thoughtful.” It can be something as simple as sending a quick text to a friend, simply because they had just “thought about them.” It could be that they are the first one to offer to help, without first pausing to calculate the inconvenience; they will just figure out how to make it work. You know who I’m talking about, you are thinking of that person and it is possibly making you smile.
On my wife’s email signature, she has a quote that sums it up: “Be KIND, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” — Marjory Pay Hinckley
Start small. Think of your friends and acquaintances, who comes to mind? What one thing would make their life a little easier today (text, call, drop-by, note on their door)? Now…do it! Congratulations! You are now thinking like an optimist! Enjoy…
Originally published at Man Ramblings.