Optimism: This word is used to describe an approach to the world in which we expect a positive outcome from situations in our lives. The application of this word on a small scale relates to everything from job interviews and personal relationships – that results will eventually work out for the best regardless of how hopeless they seem – but it also applies to larger facets of life. An optimist responds to strife and suffering in the world with the belief that over a long enough time-line good triumphs over evil. Adopting this mindset enables us to see negative experiences as opportunities rather than setbacks. Think back on your own life – have there been times when it seemed as though nothing was going your way, yet the eventual outcome of the situation played out in your favor? In that situation, did you succumb to hopelessness, or did you maintain a positive approach? While this approach fosters a lower level of stress in our day-to-day lives, it can also encourage apathy. If one is truly convinced of an inevitable positive outcome, will they seek to be a part of solutions in the world? Will they seek to be a part of solutions in their own lives? Positive outcomes only occur when individuals place the responsibility for change on their own shoulders. We all experience grief, loss, and anguish – no life will ever be completely free of such things – but without optimism, moving past these things can be nearly impossible.
Optimism tells us that everything is going to be fine, even though the ultimate outcome of a situation is unclear or uncertain. Though it is debatable, many people see the events and contexts unfolding around them from a perspective that is closer to pessimism and cynicism than to the optimist view that holds the proverbial glass of water as half-full. Still, optimism is alive and making news. In a story related to a previous blog [see Control], the New York Times reports that optimism among younger Ukrainians is growing now that pro-Russian President Yanukovych has been removed from power. In spite of the many problems facing the people of the Ukraine, such as national economic hardship, Russian control of Ukrainian territory, and the chaos created by an ineffectual interim government, one young woman voiced her optimism by claiming “my state perhaps cannot defend me, but it’s not acting against me, as it was before.” Citing political and police corruption, most of the 20-30 year-old Ukrainians interviewed by the New York Times expressed confidence that new laws and elections will create a better Ukraine. Let us hope that optimism and freedom continue to grow in the Ukraine and in the hearts and minds of all people around the globe. Of course, the mind of a recent college graduate is usually preoccupied with finding a good job. According to the Wall Street Journal, college graduates of 2014 are very optimistic about their futures. In a survey conducted by Accenture, 69% of recent graduates surveyed reported optimism about landing a job within 6 months of graduation. The survey also found that 80%of these graduates expect employer provided training, even though only 43% of last year’s graduates received employer provided training after employment. Additionally, 43% of the 2014 graduates reported feeling optimistic that their salaries would be $40,000 or more. In comparison to the 21% of graduates from the prior year that actually found employment paying $40,000 or better, current graduates seem to have considerable amount of optimism in the economy and in their (negotiating) skills. I hope their optimism is rewarded. In our final article, The Washington Post reports a study concerning optimism and health. The overarching question asked by the study was “Might your outlook on life — and that of your spouse or partner — affect your well-being?” According to the Post, the “study involved 1,970 heterosexual couples, all older than 50 (most in their mid-60s)”over “a four year period.” Researchers discovered that respondents with high levels of optimism “had better health overall, including fewer chronic illnesses, and were able to function better physically than were the least optimistic people.” Moreover, having an optimistic partner provided even more health benefits to those surveyed. This study, taken with other research suggesting a link between high optimism and better health (e.g. reduced stress and cardiovascular problems) points to the importance of seeing and believing in the positive things in life, rather than consistently focusing on the negative.