I once told a friend an aphorism that even though an optimist is wrong just as often as the pessimist, they are far happier. Though hard times must come in life for us to progress, how we respond to them defines who we are and our very future. Happiness and gloom grow in the same way. Like a fire, they will grow if fueled. Optimism should be our priority because it lifts us and others to a greater degree of joy. The sought after secret to happiness is as simple as having a good attitude.
With all the darkness and destruction prevalent in today’s world, light and goodness often seem scarce. Though disasters and turmoil will come, there will always be helpers. The helpers are those who selflessly serve others, even when their own struggles weigh them down. Those helpers, the optimists, are those who raise others up. Optimism is selfless because it brightens the lives of others. Be selfless in your cheer and smile even when you don’t feel like it because at the end of the day you will find that it is the surest way to feeling like smiling.
When I feel morose, looking on the bright side takes effort. It’s easier to wallow in gloom and justify my feelings of sadness, but it is always the strong choice to put my trials in perspective and look for the sunshine. Gordon B. Hinckley once said, “Stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight.” Each moment we spend dwelling on the negative is a moment taken from happiness.
I like to think of optimism as a verb because it’s an action. Being optimistic requires thought and deed. Even with practice, the attitude of optimism is always a choice. It sometimes seems a daunting choice because it’s not a popular one. It’s choosing daily to say “What’s the BEST that could happen?”
Once when comforting a friend in a time of trouble, I grew discouraged that my words of encouragement seemed to make no difference. I asked her if I was being too optimistic because I felt like I wasn’t empathizing enough with her pain. She said “No, I need your optimism; it gives me hope when I have none.” Since then I have grown steadily in my desire to be an example of cheer and live according to the optimist creed.
My younger sister and I are the best of friends now as teenagers, but when we were younger we bickered when we played as kids often do. While admonishing us for our fighting, my dad would tell me to be my sister’s “biggest cheerleader.” Over the years I have developed a knowledge of his meaning. Instead of picking on my sister, I need to cheer and applaud her in every good thing. Everyone needs someone to encourage them and I hope to be a cheerleader to many that I come in contact with throughout life.
While my peers and I wait to receive news back about our admission to the colleges we have applied to, I’ve noticed a trend. Though our chances of acceptance vary only slightly from our similar qualifications, the attitudes amongst my friends differ enormously. Some, like myself, eagerly hope for acceptance to our first-choice colleges, but others mope and dwell on their inadequacies and doubt their chances of success. I’ve noticed that those who are pessimistic about their applications are in constant anxiety and fear of failure. Though I have a backup plan, I have allowed myself the freedom of a happy conscience and hope for my future. The brief disappointment I will feel if I end up failing despite my best efforts seems insignificant compared to the angst I would feel for months if I worried about it. An optimistic attitude frees me from stresses and worries that would taint my current happiness.
Optimism is a priority in my daily life because I’ve witnessed its benefits. It brings true and lasting happiness to my life and lifts those I speak it to. As optimism becomes a habitual part of my character, my strength against worry solidifies. I am hopeful and cheerful about my future and welcome the momentous years to come. I now proudly can proclaim: I am an optimist.
Claire Kincaid is a senior at Soldotna High School.