Your mindset is a choice: Optimism is not about "putting on rose-coloured glasses" - it is about empowering yourself to be proactive, not reactive. It is about focussing on what can, not what can't be done. Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net
We indubitably live in one of the world’s most privileged countries. Australia is, albeit, experiencing an ebb in the percentage of people who are employed full, and even part-time.
However, Australian citizens are fortunate to belong in a country where provides a safety net in terms of financial aid in the form of welfare assistance if unemployment or disability render a higher income gained from work not a possibility for any length of time.
In a spirit of pessimism I have dwelled on the negative repercussions of being in the latter category. Instead of adopting a position of optimism where I refuse to see this as a personal reflection of ineptitude, but a current reality of the country’s financial climate, I have at times dipped into a spirit of pessimism, viewing my current work status as a reflection of personal deficiency in some competency. Extending on the downward outlook I have pondered if this represents a beginning time-point in long-term unemployment.
However, if I chose to be optimistic about being unemployed (apart from part-time writing income from ‘self-avenue’) I would see myself as just one of many people in the same boat. I would remember that in less fortunate countries, people in my position don’t have the time or energy to suffer from ‘existential angst’ concerning whether they have a personally worthwhile contribution to make. They are too busy trying to survive. If I chose to be optimistic, I would focus on the two and a half university degrees, certificate in proofreading and editing, as well as writing work that are a reflection that I do have skills to offer. As such, my unemployment is not a personal deficiency, but due to partly the economic climate, as well as personal health circumstances.
An optimist would not see paid employment as the only work in which self-respect could be earned. Rather they would see that volunteer work requires skills also, and is worthy of respect for that reason, as well as the fact that they are working for an altruistic motive. This is praiseworthy in itself.
Optimists don’t see a negative reality as being a permanent circumstance. Rather they see it as temporary. They don’t focus on it being a problem due to an inner deficit, or if they do, they also see what they can do about it: as well as taking into account external factors. Optimists do not see a ‘failure’ in an endeavour as a global condemnation or deficit of character. Rather they are able to see it as one specific area they are currently experiencing difficulty in terms of achieving their goals.
So choosing an optimistic outlook allows one to cognitively reframe their reality.
Being an optimist can be difficult. I think some people perceive optimism to be a state of ‘having rose-coloured glasses’. They therefore think it is being “Polyanna-ish”, unrealistically positive, and perhaps this is why people find it difficult. However, I believe optimism is not perceiving things as necessarily positive (and yes, sometimes this is an unrealistic state of being). No, optimism, is trying to see things as the best they can be. Pessimism on the other hand is characterised by a failure to make the best of a situation.
This is one reason why optimists can be less susceptible to depression and anxiety. They have firstly empowered themselves by choosing to focus on what they can do, not what they cannot. There is therefore less helplessness associated with optimism than with pessimism. This proactivity rather than pessimistic reactivity could be responsible for this better emotional and mental state.
Optimism then, is not unrealistic but represents a choice to focus on what can be done. Better outlooks are only possible with optimism. How can things improve if one is not even entertaining a different reality? It is more empowering, and feels better. It really is the obvious alternative.