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Tiny Wisdom: On Choosing Optimism

“I am a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.” -Antonio Gramsci

They say that ignorance is bliss, and there's a really good reason for it. There are a lot of things we learn as we get older that can get us down if we dwell on them.

The world feels a lot safer when you believe in Santa Claus and magic, and haven't yet learned about the tragedies and injustices that happen every day, all over the world.

It's a lot easier to feel happy when you believe that everyone has pure intentions, and don't yet realize that people sometimes hurt other people, knowingly and intentionally.

If you want to, you can easily find tons of reasons to live your life scared and negative. You can use all kinds of logic to justify a bitter, guarded attitude, as if it's the only way protect yourself from bad things that could happen.

The irony is that this is the worst thing that could happen, because it makes the space inside your head persistently painful–and it doesn't actually prevent pain or misfortune. It's a self-made prison that you can only escape by choosing to shift your perspective.

Since tomorrow is always uncertain, you can torture yourself hiding from the bad things that could happen, or you can decide to take responsibility for creating the good. But you can't do both at the same time.

Today if you're feeling like the odds are stacked against you, ask yourself: Which would you prefer–to assume that things will go wrong and then find evidence to confirm you're right, or to believe that good things will happen and then make every effort to create them?

Photo by raichovak

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • The quote “You have nothing to fear but fear itself” (I don’t remember who said it) comes to mind when I read this article.
    Sure the more you know the more things there are that can get you down, but really we have a choice about how we are going to feel, react and act.

    By chosing to focus on the good and not the bad, you make your life a lot easier.

  •  Really like your suggestion “to believe that good things will happen and then make every effort to create them”.   Good energy produces good things.  Why not be part of that?

  • My thoughts exactly! =)

  • That’s one of my favorite quotes, actually. I was watching something on TV the other day where the actor said that fear isn’t real–it does not take up physical space; it’s only what we allow it to be. I know we have an instinctive fight or flight response to certain situations, which is ultimately a very good thing since it can potentially protect us from harm, but this thought (that it isn’t real) helps me when I start feeling dominated my fear.

  • Rose Fané

    I really enjoy this site and the articles/quotes I find on it but I admit I have a little trouble with all this talk of positive thinking. I do truly appreciate what you are trying to do with this site.
    I was a positive thinker, believed that all people were fundamentally good people and that great things can happen.
    I grew up with a verbally abusive father who destroyed my self esteem by incessantly telling me I was a loser, would never amount to anything, that anything I would ever undertake would fail, that I was hugely overweight, etc.
    I met a man a little over 2 years ago that at first seemed like a great guy (intelligent, funny, with whom I could trust) we had great conversations were great, we laughed together a lot, the physical relationship was great and we confided to each other about nearly everything. I realised at the end of last year that he had been manipulating me from the beginning and although he could trust in me to always be there for support that I couldn’t not count on him to do the same.  
    I feel doubly rejected first from my father and then by the man I came to love. I don’t hate men but I feel like it’s damn near impossible to be positive about relationships and trusting a man (in a romantic not platonic relationship) seems almost too much to ask.
    To say ”Just get over it.” or “Think positive thoughts.” seems a little trite. I gave my time, energy, positive thoughts and love unceasingly and feel utterly drained. I thought that by giving like this I would attract those sort of things back to myself but it’s just not the case. What is the solution?

  • Hi there,

    I am so sorry to hear about your experiences with your father and this man. I actually don’t believe that “just be positive” is good advice. I also don’t believe that we get what we give. I do believe, though, that aiming to be more positive is better than the alternative because persistent negative thinking hurts. I know–I’ve been in that place many times before.

    The reality is that the glass is both half-full AND half-empty. It’s not one or the other. I’ve dealt with some abuse in my past, as well (I generally don’t get into specifics), and I didn’t trust for a long time. I can’t say that I trust everyone now, but I find that I am more peaceful when I let go of my past hurt and put my energy into positive things I can create. I’m not talking about doing this always–I’m talking about doing this as best I can from moment to moment. That doesn’t mean hurtful things won’t happen to me again. The reality is we can’t ever control of predict the future. But I think we all need to ask ourselves: Do you want to feel bad more often than not?

    I know it’s hard to shift your focus away from the hurt these people have caused you. What’s helped me is to focus on lessons learned and then use those lessons as best I can so that I surround myself with people who are less likely to hurt me. There are no guarantees–but the only alternative is to walk around feeling bitter and angry. Which would you prefer?

    Love and light,
    Lori

     

  • merlot

    OMG!!!I was just thinking about every single word you mentioned above just before I ran into your post!!
    Well said! 

  • Matt 22primalman

    Amazing. I’m a victim of crime and have been for nine months, the other day the suspects came to my house and smashed up my car. It’s 3 am now and I’m wide awake worried. This post is helping me. Thank you.

  • I’m glad this post resonated with you!

  • Hi Matt,

    I’m so sorry to learn about what you’ve been through. It sounds like a terrifying experience. I’m so glad that this post was helpful to you in this difficult time.

    Lori

  • Alex

    As I have gotten older my faith in life has diminished and I have become a colder more detached adult because of the damage I have done to myself and the damage others have done to me emotionally and psychologically. I fell like I have lost my way in life and I find it harder to find pleasure in life, I feel as if I am alway living my lifef for others that I don’t do for myself anymore. I feel if I do what I truly want to do with my life it would be selfish. But I was reading that at times you need to be selfish and it is not wrong to want things for yourselves even if it does agree with others plans. I am 45 years old and I have felt lost and alone and I just want to start living for me I am so happy that I found this site it bring me a sense of peace and direction that I have been searching for, for a long time.

  • Hi Alex,

    I know all about feeling lost and alone, as I felt that way for the majority of my life. That’s wonderful you’ve started to focusing on doing what you want. I think a lot of us feel like taking of our needs is selfish, but if we don’t, who will?

    I’m glad you found your way here, and that you’re part of the Tiny Buddha community. =)

    Lori

  • waldo

    JFK said that quote, Sir