Hardy Optimism is a Choice

Key Point: The world serves up what we experience. It’s as easy and as difficult as that. Most of us are taught and even pushed to dream and have aspirations. Certainly, the children of baby boomers have been mostly encouraged to think and even plan on life rolling out according to the general “onward and upward” pattern of their parents; go to school, get a post secondary education, even better if it’s a graduate degree, meet a partner, acquire what you can, perhaps raise a family and live happily ever after. However while the actual data is that those who get a graduate degree actually do make more money, we know that our life/situations are totally and uniquely personal. Everyone has some distinct combination of so called “ups and downs” in a life/career. While we contribute to a statistic or trend, that data oversimplifies who we are and what’s specifically happening around us.

Emily Perl Kingsley, a celebrated writer, was asked to describe what it was like raising a child with a disability. She used an analogy of planning a trip to Italy with all the anticipation that accompanies such a wonderful journey. However when landing, the traveler is told that the plane is unexpectedly ending up and staying in Holland. Holland has much to offer, but it’s not Italy. Soon everyone is coming back from Italy bragging about the wonderful time they had there. She points out thoughtfully, that the pain of losing that Italy trip will never go away, because the loss of the dream is significant. Most importantly she then goes on to state,” however if you spend the rest of your life mourning the fact you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be FREE to enjoy the special, lovely things about Holland.” When some people do unexpectedly land in “Holland,” why do they feel so helpless and stuck in the mud?

I’m saddened when I meet people who feel unfairly victimized by the unplanned and unexpected situations they’re in. And yes, the “Holland” is much worse for some… It’s understandable that the pain of loss and things not going according to a dream is real and lasting. Yet like NFL coaching legend Vince Lombardi famously expressed, “it’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up.”

Character Moves:

  1. Learn and practice the skill of reframing! This is much more than “just blindly thinking positively.” It involves consciously shifting your mindset into a more opportunistic state by asking, “what is the opportunity in THIS?” If you genuinely answer that question, you change the look of the information or situation by literally changing the FRAME around your challenge or even existence. 
  1. In a famous study of executives who most effectively managed work stress and difficulties, (Illinois Bell, by Kobasa and Maddi) three big factors emerged: Strong social support, exercise and most importantly, personal hardiness. And the exceptional insight on hardiness was this, “If one has an optimistic appraisal (yet still realistic and honest) of events, it most often leads to decisive action that will alter those events!” An optimistic appraisal is the CHOICE to view personal events (including those landings in “Holland”) as interesting, important, subject to influence, and a potential for tremendous personal growth. That is personal hardiness!
  1. Remember: An optimistic APPRAISAL often leads to decisive ACTION that alters a situation. 

Hardy ho in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I’m approaching my 30th birthday, and in all honesty, I’m freaking out about it a little bit. Let’s just say I don’t want to dwell on the idea for long periods of time because if you were to ask me 10 years ago (as a freshman in college), I think I had a couple different ideas of where I’d be and what I’d be doing at this time… That’s when I remind myself that my life, like many millennial’s, is representative of the “pizza” theory. While some pizza slices are clearly better than others, at the end of the day, it’s still pizza… (Pizza snobs aside, the idea is there’s no “bad” pizza). Sure, I have my plans/goals for the gourmet parlor life in the future, but the “Papa Johns” life isn’t so bad in the meantime.

– Garrett 

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

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