A well-known Cherokee story illustrates beautifully the search for balance between the forces of optimism and pessimism:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he says to the boy. “It’s a terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil; he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continues, “The other is good; he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thinks about it for a minute and then asks his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replies, “The one you feed.”
I don’t want to try to convince you to choose an optimistic attitude. I already went through that as a life coach when I learned that I cannot help anyone who isn’t willing to change. My experience is that one first has to be fed up with something to be motivated to change. If the following list of benefits of choosing to be an optimist doesn’t convince you, it’s very likely that nothing will.
BENEFITS TO BECOMING AN OPTIMIST
• Healthier Than the Majority - In a study of more than 5,100 adults, researchers from the University of Illinois found that those who were the most optimistic were 76% more likely to have health scores in an ideal range. In addition, optimists had significantly better blood sugar and cholesterol levels, exercised more, had healthier body mass indices, and were less likely to smoke than pessimists. This isn’t an opinion; it’s a fact.
Dr. Richard Davidson, Author of The Emotional Life of Your Brain, and founder of the University of Wisconsin’s Centre for Investigating Healthy Minds affects says our emotional life affects how susceptible we are to stress. He also adds “Our emotional style also affects physical health. It has physiological consequences that, in turn, have important downstream effects on the function of our respiratory, immune, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and endocrine systems – in short, on health below the neck. I would go so far as to assert that of all forms of human behavior and psychological states, the most powerful influence on our physical health is our emotional life.”
• Expansion and Growth - Optimist are hopeful for the future; as a result, they’re willing to risk more and go after their dreams and goals. They’re willing to leave their comfort zone because they feel confident it will be for the better.
• Grow Resilient - Taking setbacks as opportunities is a characteristic of an optimist. This’s perhaps one of the most important qualities for success overall.
• Increase Longevity - Of the five longest living societies on the planet, the Okinawan people have been studied most by longevity scientists, as they commonly live to be over 100 and some over 110. One of the factors that the scientist attribute to the Okinawan’s longevity is their optimism. Instead of worrying, Okinawans say “Everything will turn out fine.” Would you like to live longer? Become an optimist.
• Promotes Positive Relationships - An optimist trusts others more easily than a pessimist does. An optimist expects the best of people, while a pessimist sees others in distrust. This trust is another longevity factor of Okinawans.
• More Happiness - When we’re hopeful, confident, and resilient, undoubtedly, we’ll experience less worries and frustrations, which will result in a happier life.
• Promotes Self-Confidence - Optimists trust themselves and their abilities more than pessimists.
Optimism is simply the best choice.
STEPS TO TURN TO OPTIMISM
First you need to become aware of your tendencies. Most people believe they’re optimists, but they’re not. Waking up to it isn’t as easy as it sounds. It requires ongoing observations of your thoughts and actions. There are many ways to do this; one of them is observing your life. Do you suffer from stress-related symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, emotional eating, headaches, etc.? You might be seeing your life and future from a place of pessimism.
We tend to think a pessimist is a crabby person, but a sweet person can be a “worrier,” or a perfectionist always searches for flaws. With every personality, there’s always room to become more optimistic.
You need to desire to leave your old ways, your negative views of a gloomy world. You must make a decision and act on it.
Optimism is a habit wired in the brain. Fortunately, habits can be learned. The best way to create new habit is through self-discipline. When you wake up in the morning to go to work but don’t feel like going, what do you do? You go anyway, right? At least, most of the time; otherwise, you’d lose your job. Self-discipline is the ability to do what you said you would do in spite of how you feel about it.
So, anytime you see yourself being pessimistic about your future or a particular situation, direct your thoughts and your actions with self-discipline towards optimism.
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in ever opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” —Winston Churchill