“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
– Emily Dickinson
Optimism is about focusing on the good part of a situation or the belief that something good can emerge from a situation. Hope can be understood as desiring something and expecting that desire to be fulfilled. Psychologist define hope as the ability to find the motivation and the means to attain one’s goals.
In 1944, the navigator, Jacques-Yves Le Toumelin, watched the Germans torch his ships, and, paraphrasing Rudyard Kipling, remarked: “If you can see your life’s work destroyed and get straight back to the grindstone, then you will be a man, my son”. He immediately set about building a new ship on which he circumnavigated the world. He chose to respond optimistically rather than pessimistically and so achieved success.
We can cultivate hope and optimism by exercising these qualities in our minds. First, we remember that how we perceive and frame our experience is always a choice. When we take a pessimistic view or start ‘catastrophising’ we are choosing to exercise these qualities in our minds. However, we can just as easily change our attitude and mindset by choosing to adopt an optimistic lens through which to look.
Notice when you are in a pessimistic frame of mind and then experiment with adopting a more optimistic view by imagining what it would be like to believe that things can turn out for the best.
Think of a challenge you are facing and ask:
What good might emerge out of this situation?
What is a more helpful way of looking at this?
How would it feel to belief that things can turn out for the best?
Try to develop a supportive, encouraging voice within yourself that tells you that you can persist, find a solution, start again, retrieve what you have lost, progress, appreciate, grow…