Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Personal Anecdotes on Optimism

For those who do not know (aka 99.9% of you readers), I am a very optimistic person. It's been a trait I have had for many years, at least since mid-way through high school. This sense of optimism, or having profound hope and positive thinking for the future, can be found in every aspect of my life -- in relationships, in career, and in family. The funny thing is, I cannot pinpoint the origins of this optimism.

Does this glass look half-empty or half-full?

What I can do is share with you 3 personal stories to illustrate my optimistic self. This hopefulness does not always serve me well, but I'd say the good results overshadow the bad. One thing that will become obvious is that I am more optimism than the average person; as a dear friend kindly shared today, mine borders on idealism.
  1. The first comes from something I realized yesterday while driving to a church event. When I attend church or visit Baltimore, my preferred travel path is to take I-295N for as long as possible. This wouldn't be a problem if I-295N was not often congested with traffic, which is particularly bad during rush hour (go figure). One solution is to transfer onto I-95N at its intersection with I-295: I-95 is broader, better paved, but slightly longer. As evidence for my optimism, I never transfer onto I-95N...even when it is quite obvious I-295 is heavily congested. Tens of such occasions have arisen and, paradoxically, I stuck to I-295N in every single one. In my mind, I always believe that the congestion will clear up --even when real-life experiences clearly debunk this belief.
  2. The second is born of a conversation I had with a friend. We were talking about our perspective on personal relationships, and used the analogy of cups being half empty vs half full. I made the honest admission that I always regarded half-empty cups as half-full and oftentimes even 1/3 full cups as half-full. I then made the (still truthful) declaration that even if there is only a single drop of liquid in the cup, I may consider it to be half-full. At this my friend refuted that "what if there is no cup?" I replied "there is always a cup".
  3. Last but not least, I think the single greatest example of my optimism is in my regard for Mandy. There clearly is little factual evidence and lots of conjurations in my posts about her. Sometimes I realize I am being delusional (which is very bad) but I never really stop believing in a bright future -- even while saying that I will.
So there you have it, a few illustrations of my optimism. I firmly believe that optimism is better than its opposite: pessimism. And I hope you are optimistic too.

UPDATE (07-23-2011)
After just watching an episode of Scrubs (season 3, episode 3?), another anecdote of optimism just came to mind. The analogy is that of a hot air balloon: the balloon is anchored to the ground but has a tendency to float up into the air. When disappointments happen, the hot air balloon is punctured and falls back onto the ground. Yet over time the puncture is repaired and the hot air balloon takes flight once more. The point is the balloon will float as long as there is someone willing to repair the puncture and fill the balloon with (hot) air once more. The anchor represents reality -- if you cut the anchor, then the balloon will float away (into oblivion).

On a different line of thought, one must also try and strive to the best possible. This is like playing basketball -- you have to take a lot of shots, and you are bound to miss a few. But if you become discouraged and fear missing shots, then you will not score any points. Even the best shooters recognize that they will miss sometimes. But practice makes it better.

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