Sunday, November 20, 2011


I am in the midst of grading many, many essays on the topic of optimism vs. pessimism.  The stuff they were saying was driving me batty, so I've written them a note.  It will be printed for them in English and Japanese. 


Many of you think that to be an optimist means that you feel happy all the time. 

This is not true.

The following is a very simple way to think of optimism:  If you have an optimistic perspective, it means that you maintain hope.  That’s all.

You know what that means?  It means when you lose a basketball game, it’s ok to feel sad.  It means that when you get a low score on a test, it’s ok to cry.  Feeling sad does not mean that you are not an optimist.  It just means that you feel sad.  Being an optimist does not mean that you deny your natural emotions.  Your thoughts FOLLOWING the perceived failure are what make you an optimist or a pessimist.

An optimist would think…
“I can and will do better next time.”
“With time and practice, I will be a better player.”
“I will remember all of the good things about being a part of this team, even if we lose.”
“I did poorly on that test, but I am still a good and smart person, and I know I can succeed.”

Give yourselves a break.  Relax…  I remember having a crying fit about getting a B in a psychology course when I was in college.  I was so sad, and mad, and disappointed.  Guess what?  It’s about 6 years later, and my B grade in psychology has not mattered at all to my life.  I also remember spending $1000 on surgery for my cat, a cat that I had spent a lot of energy being mad at because it killed my iguana.  It was probably stupid to spend $1000 on my cat.  It’s not something I wanted.  But, I did it, and I felt more love from that cat than I have felt from many people.  I felt how grateful she was that I was with her in the hospital.  I learned so much about the value of life and what we creatures are capable of.   I did not expect this experience to be good.  I had no goals related to this experience.  But, it turned out to be important to my life.  My point is that we have to keep things in perspective.  Sometimes it seems like the end of the world because WE have placed so much value on something.  Maintain hope and give yourself time, and you may laugh about something that once devastated you.    

Someone mentioned that if you have low expectations, then you won’t get disappointed when you fail.  Having low expectations brings you down from the beginning, making your chances of success less likely.  Don’t set yourself up for failure.  Maybe you don’t have to have high expectations OR low expectations.  If you can approach life with an open mind, free of expectations, you just allow things to be as they are.

Several of you mentioned wanting to be different than you are.  You also said that you can’t change.  I am here to tell you that if you want to change, you CAN change.  It is very difficult to change.  I won’t tell you it’s not.  BUT YOU CAN.  How?  Reflect on yourself, your attitudes, and your reactions.  Read books on ways to think.  Learn about yourself.  Learn what you believe about yourself and the world you live in.  Allow yourself to be just what you are, but also use the power you have to apply the knowledge you gain to make the changes you desire.  If you love something, you do what is best for it.  Love yourself.

Your ALT,

Yeah, I'm an over-ambitious idealist.  Maybe they won't get it.  But, hey, I'm an optimist, and maybe they will.

From Japan,

1 comment:

Nataila said...

It's a great view on optimism!!! I truly enjoyed reading it and they are very lucky to have you!