What we need is a little optimism

optimist-citationI was going through some dusty old things the other day and found a “Youth Appreciation Week Citation” I received in 1969 from the Optimist Club of Reynoldsburg, Ohio. Wow, I thought, that’s a long time ago!

What was ironic is that I had just written a blog about the importance of optimism for Aartrijk, a content marketing firm here in the DC area. If ever there were a time when we needed a little optimism, 2017 would be it. Can you think of a more fractured, divisive or uncertain time than today?

Well, yes…1969, as a matter of fact. The year the Optimists gave me that citation was not exactly a tranquil moment in our nation’s history. Nixon was sworn in as president, and the Vietnam War and protests against it were in full swing. The Woodstock music festival was that summer. It was a time of sexual experimentation, counterculture politics, long hair, drugs and psychedelic music, pop art (remember Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup can?), feminism, environmentalism, radicalism and revolution.

I suppose if I wanted to be glib, I could say that it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. If you had just been drafted or were fighting for equal rights, you might have thought it was the worst of times. But on July 15, 1969, when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, and everyone in America cheered, you surely thought it was the best of times.

Having lived through Watergate and Nixon’s resignation, the Reagan revolution and the Clinton impeachment, I take the long view. I don’t like this era’s vitriol, the intolerance and the downright meanness of our discourse. But I remain optimistic. I can’t explain why, but I think we’re going to be okay. And so I give you the Optimist’s Creed, written by Christian Larson in 1912 and adopted by Optimist International in 1922:

The Optimist’s Creed

Promise Yourself…

To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.

To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel that there is something worthwhile in them.

To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.

To think only of the best, to work only for the best and to expect only the best.

To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.

To wear a cheerful expression at all times and give a smile to every living creature you meet.

To give so much time to improving yourself that you have no time to criticize others.

To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud word but in great deeds.

To live in the faith that the whole world is on your side, so long as you are true to the best that is in you.

Christian D. Larson

In my post for Aartrijk, I noted that optimism is good for your health, too. Here are a few points to consider:

  • Studies show that people who look on the bright side have fewer heart problems and better cholesterol readings. “Even more impressive is the impact of a positive outlook on overall health and longevity,” notes the Harvard Medical School “Research tells us that an optimistic outlook early in life can predict better health and a lower rate of death during follow-up periods of 15 to 40 years.”
  • The Mayo Clinic catalogues a host of benefits from positive thinking, including lower rates of depression, better coping skills during hardships and times of stress, and greater resistance to the common cold.

Would you like to put more optimism in your life? The folks at the Mayo Clinic recommend that you cut down on negative thoughts and focus on positive ones, be open to humor, follow a healthy lifestyle and surround yourself with positive people.

Seems like a good prescription for our times.

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