The Path Toward Optimism…///

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The Origin ///

It’s a weird path to optimism.  The idea of it seems naïve.  See, I grew up in a culture that didn’t promote optimism.  Maybe it was the people I hung out with.  Maybe it was my family.  Maybe it was just me and the way I saw the world due to my experiences.  I really don’t know. Probably all of the above, but I’m not sure I really need to analyze it much.

What I do know is that much of my life I claimed “realism”.  Ever said it or heard someone say it?  “I’m not negative, I’m a realist.” That’s how I have lived much of my life.  I’m 36, and aside from a few major events, I’ve spent a lot of time avoiding.   Avoiding risk and discomfort.  Going away from frustration.  Looking at the way out of a situation.

Value of “Realism” ///

Now, it’s not to say this mentality isn’t valuable.  Depending on the context, it may be necessary.  But, at the core, I see more value in running toward.  I see more opportunity looking at the desired outcome rather than avoiding the current situation.  There is a calm, a peace, when setting a goal and working to accomplish it.

As I mentioned, I’ve done this a few times.  When I decided to go to Purdue; when I prepared and fought for a job in my current company; when we decided to become parents.  Sure, I wanted out of my school and needed a new job.  But I wasn’t running from either nor were we trying to make a change in our family.  I wanted to go to Purdue; I wanted to work for my company; we wanted to have a child.

But, these decisions were relatively easy.  The benefits significantly outweighed the costs.  They weren’t unsafe decision.   These decisions were filled with upside and limited with downside.

Reality of “Realism” ///

The majority of the time I spend in a “realistic” state.  And the reality of “realism” is that it is rooted in pessimism.  Pessimism: the tendency to see, anticipate, or emphasize only bad or undesirable outcomes, results, conditions, problems, etc. When decisions have little or no risk, seeing an undesirable outcome is difficult.  I’m not that “realistic”.

The thing is, there is a reason to be pessimistic.  The news reports and portrays the dire circumstances of the modern political landscape.  You see the times people are robbed, shot, or whatever the crime may be.  When we talk to each other casually we commiserate.  “You have an 18 month old?  You must be tired?  Are you sleeping at all?” “Your child is 3? Yikes, how are those terrible twos going?” When it is hot; “Ugh, it is so hot out.”  When it is cold; “Ugh, it is so cold.”

Whatever the situation, it truly is easy to see the negative.  Not only is it easy to see it personally, it is everywhere we look.   Thus, to think pessimistically is easy to consider “realistic”.

And for me, this too is a natural state.  A state I am comfortable in.  A state in which I have learned to be successful.

Attempt at Optimism ///

Interesting enough I am a positive person.  I like people. I believe in the good in people  I love being a dad and don’t like to commiserate over parenthood.  When it is hot, I try not to have issue with it.  After all, I really don’t like when it is cold.

But, this has been an evolution.  A turn in my life as I aim to be more optimistic.  Optimisma disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.

Optimism is a healthier place for me.  A place that I feel at peace.  It is a place that sees the future with a more positive vision.  Even though, I do occasionally have to have the “realist” hat on.  I prefer to be in a place where the future is bright.  But, not standing idle and watching.  Creating a world that allows for it to be better.  Better for my daughter and future grand kids.

The Effort ///

Over the past 3 years, I have been working at this.  Working on the path toward goals rather than away from current state.  Building a mindset rooted in optimism rather than “realism”.  It’s hard, as the tug to see a negative outcome is certainly there.

It’s hard to rewire the way you look at things.  I have always said I hate failure more than I like success.  But, success is far more gratifying than avoiding failure.  Avoiding failure is relief.  It is far more enjoyable talking about the joys of parenting than the pain of it.  It is so much better enjoying warmer weather than it is complaining about how hot it is.

It is a daily effort.  I’ve certainly come a long way in my journey toward.  I’ve done things like “3 amazing things”.  An exercise in noting 3 cool things you see every day for a month.  It’s hard, but you start to look at things differently.  You see the dad holding the son’s hand crossing the street.  You see the brilliance of a bird’s nest or spider web.

Forcing yourself to look at things differently helps you see more of the positive.  It really does start to change your outlook.  The more positive things you see the more optimistic you are about your outcomes.

The Future ///

In these efforts, I have certainly become more optimistic.  Not just positive, but I see the likely positive outcome.  I don’t wait for the other shoe to drop.  It has become easier to believe in a better result.

Though, that pesky “realist” voice still chases me around.  That voice gets louder the bigger the risk.  And we are heading toward a big risk.  The biggest I have faced since starting on this path.  More In Common being a sustained business.  A business that will take us to new heights.  Taking us away from the path we have always known: high school, to college, to the working world.

The future allows us to thrive personally and in our communities.  We have big visions and we are excited about them.  And we aren’t running from a place of discomfort.  We are sprinting toward.  That is a different path for me.  One I am not familiar with.  A path toward a dream is not something with which I have had personal success.  It is not the safe, low risk direction.

And, the closer we get, the louder that voice becomes.  Pulling me to a place where I want to avoid.  A place that wants to tell me the “realistic” point of view.

Cathartic relief ///

It’s important to allow “realism” to keep me grounded.  But, optimism allows for the excitement.  The growth. The ultimate path toward.  It isn’t naïve.  It is what makes this possible.

Sharing this is cathartic.  Especially as it exposes the reality of the journey.  Exposing it more to myself than anything.  I’m proud of what we have done and couldn’t be more excited about what’s next.

I see the outcome and it looks amazing.  Keeping a grounded optimism makes this possible.  However, ensuring that voice doesn’t take over is more necessary now than ever.  Time to push forward and make this new world a reality.  The outcome is bound to be outstanding.

Foot Note:

I’m sure many who bound toward a path get stuck.  If not all.  More often, we hear about these stories in hindsight.  I want to share these moments as we go through.  Hoping to build community of all who are feeling the same.  Not just who have felt it, but those who feel it now.  Collectively, we build community when we see struggle sympathetically not just empathetically.  Good luck on your journey and certainly share with us.  The more we build together the better we are all individually.

KeithKeith Richardson