WHY OPTIMISM MAKES SENSE
WHY OPTIMISM MAKES SENSE

Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power.
William James

Being optimistic, like pessimistic, has a habit of being self-fulfilling.  We can learn to be more optimistic and there are many benefits to our lives and the lives of others.

My parents were an inspiration to me.  My father had prostate cancer and between 2005 and 2010, he fought hard.  Being a fervent reader, he read seemingly everything there was to about his illness, and as a result he tried almost every treatment known to man.  And a few of them undoubtedly prolonged his life, for a while at least.

Dad also had a great picture of a frog in the gullet of a bird, with the frog attempting to strangle the neck of the bird whilst it was being swallowed.  It was accompanied by a saying, ‘Never, ever, give up’.  And Dad didn’t, right to the end.  To illustrate, he continued to bushwalk (despite the pain and against everyone’s best advice); take photos; enjoy a bit of wine; and basically get the most out of every day he could.  Similarly, my Mum was equally inspirational in her fight against dementia, for many years still getting what she could out of every day despite her terrible illness.  In the end, she lived many years more than the doctor’s predicted.

For a while, however, it seems I forgot this great bit of inspiration my parents gave me.  Maybe I was born a pessimist, or maybe it’s a way of being I learned throughout life, I’m not sure.  But when it came to the Southern Hockey Association Veterans grand final in early 2014, I had grave doubts about my team, OHA’s, ability to win the game.  So when I was informed I had a work function two hours from Hobart, on the night of the final, I thought, ‘oh well, we’ve got Buckley’s chance of winning anyway, so I probably won’t miss much’, and I went to the work function and missed the final.

The reason for my pessimism would appear rational. We were thrashed 5-0 in the first final by North West Graduates, and their team was full of former state players, as well as a current A-Grade player who seemed to me to have the ability to beat us off his own stick.  David and Goliath? Try Dad’s little frog versus Goliath. How little I knew about the benefits of perseverance and belief!

Well, my team OHA beat North West Graduates 5-4 in extra time.  When I got the text message I thought I was dreaming.  How was this possible?  By all accounts despite their superior skill level, our pressure was more than theirs, we had a bit of luck, and the game was ours. Unbelievable!!

What’s there to learn from all this? Well the main thing I take out of Mum and Dad’s fight and OHA’s victory is simple.  There is nothing to be lost from having a positive outlook on life, and there has been plenty of research to support this.  Optimistic people tend to have better health, they achieve more, and they live happier lives.  They are probably also much better to be around.  And the good news is, optimism can be learnt!

So next time you think you can’t win, or that the situation is hopeless, think again.  Be optimistic, because being optimistic, like being pessimistic, has a habit of being self-fulfilling.  Think you can’t win or make it?  Well you’re already beaten.  But see yourself surviving longer than the doctors predict, or performing your best ever?  Now that’s something to be happy about.

All the best,

Ivan