A definition of optimism:
1. hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.
One of the superlative titles that my high school class awarded was Most Optimistic. It’s a title that I won by, no doubt, popular vote as a high school senior. At the time, it wasn’t a title that I wanted and I wasn’t even sure why that particular honor was given to me.
Most Optimistic wasn’t a hotly contested or desired high school superlative. It wasn’t Class Clown or Most Likely to Succeed or Most Fun to be Around. To me, optimism wasn’t cool. It wasn’t popular. It certainly did not increase my social standing among my peers. It implied a detached from reality, Pollyanna type outlook that I didn’t connect with. My understanding was that an optimist was someone who “always looked on the bright side of life” at the expense of ignoring the truth of what was actually there. I wasn’t a negative, doom and gloom personality by any stretch, but I was certainly grounded in the real world.
Twenty plus years on, and I’ve come to better understand my optimism and what it means define oneself as such today. Often we explain optimism versus pessimism by using the glass half full/glass half empty comparison. I propose a different way of explaining optimism. An explanation that sees optimism as recognizing the beauty that there is water in the glass at all, regardless of how it is measured. Optimism is seeing the value of the existence of water, not the quantity of it. Optimism isn’t giving power to the empty space, it’s giving power to the water. It’s believing in the potential of the water to do some good (quenching thirst, sustaining the life of a houseplant). It’s not worrying about what isn’t there.
Let me say that again: Optimists do not worry about what isn’t there. It’s about seeing what exists and then seeing the best future potential. It’s rooted in reality (there is water in the glass) but also in the hope and good that the water represents.
Cheers to the water in the glass!