The Power of Optimism

A survival instinct wired into us

We all suffer from anxiety. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Anxiety about the future can be due to personal or professional reasons. But it’s not all negative — anxiety can be a powerful motivator to channel our energy in the right direction. However, that’s only true if we leverage it effectively to our advantage, and don’t succumb to it.

I reflected on challenges and moments of anxiety I’ve encountered, to recalled the source of my motivation to combat them. It was optimism and hope — making myself believe that a favorable outcome is possible. Optimism helps tackle setbacks and fuels the fire in our belly to drive change. Our motivation rests on the fundamental belief that change is possible — that’s our optimism. It’s a survival instinct. Humans would not be motivated to act if we were wired as pessimists. Optimism drives exploration and innovation — from Thomas Edison to the Wright Brothers, all needed it to prevail.

I was reminded of this recently when conflicted over a key decision — I was afraid of making the wrong choice. Then a wise person reminded me to have faith — make a mindful decision but thereafter channel my hope and optimism to work hard.

I aim to be an optimist, due to my mother. She, like most mothers I suspect, always showed me the brighter side of any situation. She said, “whatever happens, happens for the best”. And how true that is. I’ve tried to build my foundation of optimism on this belief. Her idea is rested in ancient Indian mythology. The Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu scripture dating 300 BC, has a famous verse known as the Gita Seer.

“Whatever happened in the past, it happened for the good; Whatever is happening, is happening for the good; Whatever shall happen in the future, shall happen for the good only. Do not weep for the past, do not worry for the future, concentrate on your present life.”

This is preaching hard work and importantly, optimism — to focus on acting today and letting go of the rest. Optimism is a beautiful mind game we can play with ourselves to overcome anxiety and fear of failure. Next time you’re anxious and confronted with a roadblock, let your inherent optimism prevail — it’s your superpower.

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. — Helen Keller