Six Steps to Optimism: Day 1

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”—Henry David Thoreau

How many people dou you know who, when asked, say something like, “Oh, I wish I could … “ and then follow whatever their wish is with, “But …”?

Millions of people spend their days working at jobs they have no passion for. Thousands are in living situations with people who are abusive. Hundreds of thousands find it virtually impossible to survive with a roof overhead and a meal on the table. In fact, many go to sleep unsure if they will even wake up in the morning.

For every human being on this planet, there is the opportunity to do exactly what they feel called to do. There is a chance to contribute to society in the unique way that only they are capable of.

And yet, for a vast majority of people, the chance is never realized because outward circumstances color the inner workings of the mind and heart.

If, every day, you are faced with nothing but labor that drains you physically and numbs you mentally, if you are constantly presented with situations that undermine your sense of security and sap your capacity for emotional and psychological growth, and you are ceaselessly bombarded with messages of lack, unworthiness, or other reasons why you shouldn’t or won’t ever achieve anything beyond what’s directly in front of you, then it’s little wonder that the zest for life and discovery and creativity that are inborn traits of all children get buried so deeply that they become almost impossible to unlock.

Notice I said “almost”. Even those that we, in America, with our SUV’s, flat-screen TV’s, mortgages and cell phones, consider marginalized because they don’t earn as much as we do, don’t eat or buy as much as we do, even they can live with dignity and hope.

It doesn’t take a 401(k) to make a person feel that they are assured a “good” life. Accounts lose value. Life happens to all of us. Even decisions that at first fill us with doubts and feelings of regret can be turned into something else.

Regret is nothing but living in a “coulda, shoulda, woulda” illusion. “Oh, if only I’d gotten there five minutes earlier …” Or, “Things would be so much better if I had … “

We have no way of knowing what might have happened. We can only live in the present and learn as we go.

These days, a lot of the news about “the economy” is “bad”. Certainly people are struggling as prices go up and paychecks go down. In times like these, some might say it’s pointless or foolish to be optimistic.

But optimism isn’t just burying your head in the sand and pretending nothing’s happening. Optimism doesn’t mean we see everything with rose-colored glasses that prevent us from getting clear, honest, unadulterated views of reality.

Optimism is an outlook. It’s a choice. At first, it has to be a conscious one, especially if you’re not used to making it.

It’s hard to change your perspective from, “I’m never going to make it through the month and pay all these bills,” to, “I don’t know this instant how I’m going to make it through the month, but there is a way, and I’ll find it”.

Optimism is the first choice we must make. All other choices are a consequence of this first one. By choosing optimism, we set ourselves up to continue to make choices along a similarly directed path. Each choice is a step, and each step builds upon the one that went before.

Optimism is the foundation. Over the next six days, I’ll share one way those steps can be ordered and how, simply by choosing optimism first, you can open yourself and your world to tremendous possibilities for miracles.

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