Optimism. All too often we hear someone say “look on the brightside” or “there’s a light at the end of the tunnel” or another pick-me-up phrase that we throw at someone in hopes that it’ll stop their complaining or pessimistic remarks about the pitfalls of daily life. Sometimes it really is easier said than done and no matter how hard we try to plaster a smile on our face, negativity just seeps in like some intruder. A few weeks ago I had a stomach bug that turned into constant nausea and heart burn, got a flat tire right before I went out with friends, and someone bumped into my car at a stop light all in one week. It took a lot of strength to not yell “WHY ME?!?!” into the universe. Actually, I think I did that anyway. But once I took a step away from my situation and reminded myself that things could always be much worse, my shoulders relaxed, my heart stopped racing and I felt better. We are only human and we can’t help but react when things happen to us. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t work on slowing down our reactivity and gathering perspective at the time of the stimulus. This is something I constantly work on and MAN do I have a lot more to learn. Here are some tips I’ve gathered on the topic of optimism:
Julian Treasure’s “How to Speak So that People Want to Listen” urges us to move away from 7 deadly habits of speaking.
Gossip: It may not feel like we are doing anything wrong but what if it was our name in someone else’s mouth? How would we feel if we found out that other people were talking about us in secret? Compassion goes a long way when it comes to avoiding gossip.
Judging: Gossip can cross over to judgment. You’re getting judged too and it is not a pleasant feeling when those judgments surface and get passed around like a note in class. We are so unforgiving sometimes yet we all have our qualms, faults and quirks…so why blame others for being like us in that way? Let’s also have compassion here.
Negativity: Negativity is like an infectious disease; it radiates off of one person and affects everyone they come across. When we project our negative emotions to the outside world, it can isolate us instead of bring us closer to people. I’m not saying we always have to be happy-go-lucky but constant negativity is never warranted and can just be downright exhausting to be around.
Complaining: So hard but also ties into negativity. Just think how you feel around that one person who always complains… I’m sure you’re not thinking about inviting that person to brunch anytime soon.
Excuses: Making excuses tends to have an inverse relationship with integrity. Sometimes we have legitimate reasons for not following through with our promises or responsibilities. But it is always better to under promise and over deliver than the reverse.
Embroidery/Lying/Exaggeration: This one speaks for itself.
Dogmatism: Often times there are many different ways to come to the same solution or conclusion. Even if you are hell bent about your opinion on something, it does not mean that yours is the only opinion to consider.
Julian Treasure speaks on HAIL, which stands for Honesty, Authenticity, Integrity, and Love. If we focus on speaking with those aforementioned intentions, it will draw people to us and ultimately make our voices heard. Making real connections is what brings us to life and bring us joy. Adopting HAIL mentality is what can make us strengthen these relationships.
“When people ask me how I find the strength to laugh now, I reply that I am a professional laugher.” – The Dalai Lama.
I love this quote by the Dalai Lama from his book My Spiritual Journey. Laughter is such a good ointment for pain or unfortunate circumstances. Life cannot possibly be lived without pain so finding a way to find humor in situations can work as an analgesic to inevitable hurt and despair. He also talks about laughing at oneself as being one of the many secrets to joy in his conversations with Archbishop Desmond Tutu in The Book of Joy. If we can laugh at our “nedastatki,” a Russian word for “things we lack” or our imperfections, we may find that we’re a bit lighter and less burdened by these things. It can be a beautiful thing to witness.
“Inside all us, there is a space between stimulus, and reacting to stimulus through your response.” – Stephen Covey.
This guy wrote a popular and award winning book called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and I recommend it to almost anyone I meet. There are so many takeaways from his book but this may be the most simple and effective one of all. This quote is aligned with what Victor E. Frankl once said so eloquently “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” We can practice this on a daily basis and learn to let our circumstances occur without letting them dictate our emotions and the climate around us. Taking a step back and thinking “will this serve me to react this way?” is a good start. Of course, I am not great at this either but sometimes reminding myself of these fundamental ideas helps put things into perspective.
Quotes from my loved ones
We don’t live in a vacuum and we can’t shelter ourselves from shitty days hard as we try. Sometimes the best dose of positivity is right under our nose, our friends and family! I’ve received some of the best advice from the people I maintain relationships with…
Mom & Dad are not only my #1 support team but they also are positive and inspiring. My dad is great as he continues to make sacrifices for us and keep us laughing. Mom is the sweetest, cutest person ever and always knows how to make me smile:
Downgrading flights for love Me: Aw you sacrificed your upgrade to sit by me? Dad: What dad wouldn’t sacrifice to make his daughter happy?
About a bee guy having to inspect my balcony and weeks of trying to get someone out… Me: This always happens… whenever I start complaining about something I get results. Dad: You should complain more often
⇓⇓⇓Texts from my mom⇓⇓⇓
“I’m very proud of you and you are impressing me all of the time!” “Haha you are my daughter! Work hard, relax hard. My motto.” On the day of my Thesis Defense:
“Hi babe! Just wanted to say, you are going to be awesome! Theodore Roosevelt said ‘Believe you can and you’re halfway there.’ I believe in you!”
Mikhail is such a blessing. He is optimistic yet not in that aloof way where people think they are untouchable. He’s helped me put things in perspective so many times and here are a few things he’s said:
“I’m on my lunch break and went to the park even though it is nasty out. #staypositive.” “Kick ass today” (He says this one a lot and makes me feel like a superhero). “But you’re a strong woman and I know you’ll get over it… Let go of any clutter in your mind.” “I believe prayers are mental exercises to stay sane. Its important to have faith in something, religion aside.” “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” “Think positively today. Don’t worry about things you can’t control.” “I have a lot of good things going on in my life so I want to continue to attract them.” “You give 200% every day. Not just on some made up holiday.”
Then there’s my lovely best friend, Kara (who lives too far from me but makes time to visit and travel with me despite being a badass Physician Assistant student).
Me: I left the tape on too long and now I have to go back and paint all along the trims where it peeled. 😦 Kara: Oh no!!! But think of all the things you are learning!!!
Me: Oh my god! That’s huge! But you’ll do great babes. You’re an intelligent, driven, charismatic woman and you’ve got this in the bag! And if not I know you’ll do just as great winging it. Kara: Lol. We both have big weeks and we are going to nail them.
“Take pride in being strong, it’s a blessing!” “Hi love! I just wanted to tell you to have a good day and that I miss you” “Happy first day at work! So proud of you.”
I met Jing at a Halloween party where I complimented her on her lipstick and the rest is history. We died laughing when she texted “wifi” instead of “wifey” on the day she asked me to be her maid of honor at her wedding. We laugh a lot and she always lights up my days when I’m with her and when she sends me texts like these:
“I hope you had a wonderful day babe. Love you to the moon and back! Wish you every day to be filled with lots of love, laughter, happiness and the warmth of sunshine.” “There will be a lot of challenges along the way. But we will always have each other. I’m very excited for both of our futures.” “You see I told you when you lived in downtown that everything will only get better. Now you have your own place, job, and someone you love and loves you too. How awesome is that.”
Caroline always jokes that the best part of our Master’s program was meeting me and the feeling is mutual. The stress of the program was really trying at times and it made it better to have someone in my corner. We’ve only gotten closer since then and the conversations we have are either very cathartic or funny as hell.
“Wouldn’t it be fun to have a gay son?” “I am putting it out into the universe— gay son” “Thanks again. For filling my belly but most importantly for being my friend…I love how I can tell you anything!! My day was great mostly because of you.” “Can’t wait to squeeze your sweet cheeks. Face cheeks and butt cheeks :P” “Life is really crazy when you don’t try to control it.” “And that’s what yoga is all about – letting go of what you don’t need.”
Caroline: I shaved my legs. In case you were concerned that I may turn into a man. Me: I don’t think that would ever cross my mind. Even if you did want to turn into a man, I’d still love you. Caroline: Don’t worry that wasn’t a cry for help. Hahaha
5) Thich Nhat Hanh is one of my favorite speakers on the topics of mindfulness, nonviolence, community and love. He has said so many wise and profound things in his many years of Buddhist teachings and “high ideals” of promoting change. On optimism specifically, Thich has said so simply and beautifully:
“To think in terms of either pessimism or optimism oversimplifies the truth. The problem is to see reality as it is.”
It is up to us on how we see the glass. We can look at it as half empty or half full. Or we can simply see it as a glass with water in it. Our circumstances are contingent on how we respond to stimulus. Allowing space for optimism and positive thinking will NOT stop bad things from happening or take them away but it may lighten the load and make it easier to carry.
With that I leave you until I come back a bit more tan, relaxed, and optimistic! ♥♥♥