History is the autobiography of a madman – Alexander Herzen
I once was dating a girl who was a pessimist. She was a nice foil to my unrelenting optimism. A quote that she enjoyed was, “Being a pessimist works out for me. I’m either right, or pleasantly surprised.” This to me sounds like a coward. Who would take pleasure in being right that bad things happen? More importantly though, it’s the reason behind human progress.
Optimism is the reason for any human advancement that has been ever made. You can pick anything, the printing press, the internet, cars, TV shows, even religion as an institution. All made based on the simple belief that “this will be good.” Otherwise…why make it? The man who invented the toaster didn’t think “this is going to be a disaster so bad, I can’t wait to finish it!”
We make things, do things, and say things all in the attempt that they will benefit others or ourselves. Unless we’re clinically depressed or masochists, we don’t go around doing things that negatively affect our lives.
The most important time to be an optimist is when we’re young. There’s something confusing about a teenager or a twenty something who’s a pessimist. That’s a lot of life to live if you think things won’t turn out great.
Another ex girlfriend of mine had a mother develop cancer while we were dating. I was 19 at the time and when she broke the news to me, I thought the best thing to say was “well it’s going to be okay!” However…there’s not a right thing to say when you think your mother is going to die. Her mother did end up being okay but she was so filled with pessimism she didn’t want to hear that. She kept saying that I didn’t know that and was just trying to say nice things.
I don’t know what a better thing to say would be though, “well that sucks should we pick out a grave tomorrow?” Besides leading to human improvement, optimism and pessimism lead to self fulfilling prophecies. Or in other words, sometimes just because you think something won’t turn out well it may not. This happens a lot with sports. If you were on a poor sports team or were a poor athlete, you will have the mentality that you will probably lose. Why play better if you’ll probably lose? However if you are on a good sports team or are a star you’ll think that you will win then you’ll want to play to your fullest ability and probably pull off the victory.
Obviously this doesn’t always work. Sometimes poor players and teams rise to an occasion and sometimes good players and teams don’t do enough to win. But it can be the case sometimes. I explained this to the girlfriend with the mother who had cancer about hope. Hope can help lead to a positive self-fulling prophecy. Hope, while intangible can be incredibly powerful, especially with health. If you’re optimistic about a recovery or a diagnosis and your mindset is resilient your body will be. If you’re stricken with cancer and you let it get you down the body will respond as such. Alternatively if you’re stricken with cancer and you’re hopeful you will recover then your body will be resilient.
Again, this is not 100%, hope is not the key to immorality but it can be the difference between life and death in beatable diagnoses.
This mindset is much easier said than felt though. Older people laugh at the optimism that some younger people have, calling it naive. Sometimes they’re right, there is a fine line between optimism and naivety. However, there’s also a fine line between pessimism and cynicism. Being optimistic with hard work is how to stop being naive. Thinking that something will work out with out any work to make that thing happen is being naive. The airplane wasn’t invented by the Wright brothers by just dreaming and hoping that they’ll make an airplane. They went and made the airplane. I wonder what else could have been made if people who were naive put in the work to be optimistic.
With an optimistic mind set, hard work, and creativity there’s millions of things that we’ve done and endless possibilities of what we can do. With a track record of that why would anyone be pessimist…it probably won’t lead to anything anyways.