Two ways of seeing the world

The Buddhist monk and humanitarian Mathieu Ricard celebrates the virtues of optimism as the attitude that allows us to move forward and accomplish our aims in life, despite setbacks and difficulties. While pessimism convinces us that our problems will last forever and we have no capability to act, optimism brings hope (the kind that is not simply the observe of fear), as well as resolve, adaptability, serenity, and meaning.

An optimist is somebody who considers his problems to be temporary, controllable, and linked to a specific situation. He will say: “There’s no reason to make a fuss about it; these things don’t last. I’ll figure it out; in any case, I usually do.”

The pessimist, on the other hand, thinks that his problems will last (”It’s not the sort of thing that just goes away”), that they jeopardize everything he does and are out of control (”What do you expect me to do about it?”). He also imagines that he has some basic inner flaw; he tells people, “Whatever I do, it always turns out the same way,” and concludes, “I’m not cut out to be happy.”

How many of us are afflicted with this sense of insecurity when we allow such pessimism to take over our lives?

The pessimist is constantly anticipating disaster and falls victim to chronic anxiety and doubt. Morose, irritable, and nervous, he has no confidence in the world or himself and always expects to be bullied, abandoned, and ignored.

The optimist, however, trusts that it is possible to achieve his goals and that with patience, resolve, and intelligence, he will ultimately do so. The fact is, more often than not, he does.

If pessimism and suffering were as immutable as fingerprints or eye color, it would be more sensitive to avoid trumpeting the benefits of happiness and optimism. But if optimism is a way of looking at life and happiness a condition that can be cultivated, one might as well get down to work without further delay.

How do we want to see the world?

Even if we are born with a certain predisposition to look for the silver lining, and even if the influence of those who raise us nudges our outlook toward pessimism or optimism, our interpretation of the world will shift later on, and considerably, because our minds are flexible.

“How marvelous human society would be if everyone added his own wood to the fire instead of crying over the ashes!” – Alain

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