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If you’re plagued by suffering of terrorism and tsunamis, for instance, set aside a time to figure out what YOU can do about them. You will quickly realize dilemma of world leaders who actually have to do this on a grand scale; but you will also find small things you can do in your own world to address these ills. Call your local Red Cross. They’ve been waiting for your call. IN THE MEANTIME, keep your own life going in a positive direction, with optimism. If you’re determined that you can’t be happy until all ills of world have been addressed, you’ll be a long time waiting. You will also fail to address what you can address, because of lamenting over larger things which basically are beyond your control.
If you want to turn around your attitude, turn your face in another direction. To focus on what’s right about things doesn’t mean you don’t KNOW what things are wrong, or how wrong they are. It means you’re making a choice about your own portion of world, your responsibility in it, and your outlook.
Does it help “the world” if you go on a tirade first thing in morning and dump all your frustration on your spouse? Of course not. Remember you and your spouse are also a part of “the world.”
From an objective position, young man mentioned above has a good job, a nice home, plenty of food, clothing and necessities, and a lovely wife who was cheerful, lovely, and dressed to go to her job for day. That’s a scene half people in this will never have.
Optimism means, in words of Faulkner, not “slaying real for unreal.” The moment this young man had was real, and it was good. Then he got into his own head and dragged up all reasons he could think of to be unhappy; reasons which exist and are available to all of us, but so is contentment of immediate reality.
It’s almost like he takes pride in being able to figure out there are ills in world, as if he were only one who knew this and were concerned about it.
For an example of what your self-talk does to you, consider this scenario. Let’s say Fred is feeling low. He thinks his life is impossible; it contains usual array of hard work, too much stress, arguments with his wife and kids, a puppy that won’t get house-broken, and a home plumbing system that keeps backing up.
However, his job, wife and kids are all within “the normal range.” He walks outside and has a chat with his neighbor. The neighbor has a 23 year old son who is schizophrenic and lives with him and his wife. They are retired, living on a limited income, and suffering health problems. Most of us would say, “There but for grace of God go I,” and go back inside with a prayer for neighbor, but a sense of gratitude for our own set of problems, which is much smaller and somehow seems, now, more manageable.
Fred, pessimist, however, goes back inside feeling lower than ever, having decided that if world is that awful, why try at all.
Pessimism has its roots in our beliefs, which feed into our expectations. If a perfect world is one of your beliefs, or feeling that you can’t be happy until you live in a perfect world, why not take it out and have another look. Write down your core beliefs and then go over them with optimism and pessimism in mind.
Now, in Spanish there are two “to be” verbs. One, ser, means a permanent state, such as, I am a woman. Soy mujer. The other is for temporary states, such as, I am furious. Estoy enojada. English doesn’t make this distinction by means of different verbs, but I will close this using “be” in ‘state’ sense, not ‘trait’ sense: You can be pessimistic [trait] and still survive. We all know people who are and do. But it may be necessary to be optimistic [state] if you want to thrive.
Learn about optimism and have it available. Be able to change your self-talk and attitude. This flexibility will develop your emotional intelligence, and in long run, happiness you save may be your own.
©Susan Dunn, MA, Life & EQ Coach, http://www.susandunn.cc . Offering coaching, Internet courses and ebooks for your personal and professional development. I train and certify EQ coaches. Mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org for FREE ezine.