My journey of the last nine years has led to many conversations some of which have been inspiring, and others a little disconcerting. There is a voice of concern and resignation that I have been repeatedly hearing that seems to be louder than the voice of hope. Many are concerned about the global and planetary challenges that we all face. At the heart of these challenges is an uncertain future. During an election year these concerns are exacerbated. Although I wrote about this earlier in the year, since that voice is getting louder I felt that it deserved revisiting.
The media bombards us with information most of which is negative. When there is an event or tragedy somewhere in the world, within seconds we are aware of it. It’s difficult to tune it out. This negativity, which is constantly reinforced, colors how we perceive our personal reality and the challenges that we experience in day-to-day living. We wonder how we can find fulfillment on a personal level when there is so much suffering and uncertainty in the world.
Lately I have been hearing a louder voice of those who are in the camp of the pessimists. They’ll rattle off the war, the economy, the environment, and our dwindling resources as justifications for their feeling the way they do. They’ll also say that it’s worse this time. When one tends to focus on what’s wrong and isn’t working, they will always find a litany of reasons to justify why they think the way they do.
I am in the camp of the optimists. No matter what is happening in my life or in the world I believe that there will be a better day. In fact I don’t think we have a choice but to be optimistic. This is so, even when there is so much suffering in the world.
I think back to the sixties. Not only did our country seem stuck in a senseless war in Vietnam, our country was hopelessly polarized. There seemed to be little hope. What made matters worse was that we were on a collision course in the bigger cold war with the Soviet Union. Numerous pundits and leading edge periodicals predicted a nuclear holocaust. I remained optimistic. This is what I wrote in a poem back then:
“Should there be a day when the visionaries of peace stop loving, then the prophets of doom will have their day of gloom.”"
No matter what is happening, we don’t know how things are going to turn out. No one knows the future. Things are never as bad as they seem. Feeling pessimistic or hopeless doesn’t help things. Remaining optimistic does. Researchers estimate that we think over sixty thousand thoughts in a day, some of which are positive and others negative. The question is which one do you focus on. There’s a Native American Story that reminds me of this human dilemma.
A grandfather is discussing with his grandson a tragedy that just occurred.
The grandfather says, ” I feel like I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One is an angry vengeful one and the other is a peaceful loving one.”
The grandson then asks,” Which one is going to win?”
The grandfather replies, “The one I feed.”
I recently viewed Al Gore’s latest talk on climate change, which he presented at the TED Conference. I found another voice of optimism. While he laid out the disturbing environmental challenges before us, and the crisis in democracy that we faced, he suggested that we reframe the challenge by seeing the challenge as one that motivates us to action. He urged us to reach inside of ourselves to tap into a greatness that we never knew was possible. He went on to ask, “How many generations before us have had the opportunity to rise to a challenge that is worthy of our best efforts-a challenge that can pull from us more than we thought was possible?”
Imagine approaching your whole life in this way. What will the challenges be in the future that are worthy of your best efforts? Think of the challenges along the way that have helped you get to this point in your life; the challenges that have inspired you to surpass what you thought was possible in your life.
There’s one habit or pattern that most likely will get in your way of thinking this way. Once you have a better handle on it, you’ll feel freer and more optimistic. There’s always that voice-that voice of doubt or judgment- that limits what you think is possible in your life. I know that voice well.
It’s powerful and has been reinforced by a lifetime of negative conditioning. Here’s what I do to try to become free of it. As soon as I notice that I am thinking negatively I catch myself by talking to that voice. In coaching we refer to that voice of judgment as your “gremlin.” I suggest that you give your “gremlin” a name. I call mine Ralph.
The sooner I recognize Ralph, the sooner I am able to break free from the hypnotic spell he has over me. I remind myself that this voice has nothing to do with what’s really going on today; it’s an old habit that I adopted consciously or unconsciously many years ago. By just recognizing and noticing Ralph I am able to break free of the hold he has over me. This enables me to reframe what I initially considered a problem into an opportunity and create an empowering future.
I don’t think we can get enough inspiration in our life. It takes a conscious effort to live an inspired life. Nature has been a great inspiration for me. Sometimes it’s getting together with a dear friend or reading a great book. Sometimes it listening to music or watching a great dancer. We each have our own way of getting there. A big smile always helps. When you are living an an inspired life, no matter what the challenge is, it’s much easier to remain optimistic and to see the possibilities around you.
Share your voice for optimism by sharing this message to those in your circle.
JOURNEY ON is a blog dedicated to personal and professional development. Mark Susnow,JD, is an Executive and Life Coach, who inspires others to believe in themselves. A former successful trial attorney for 30 years and musician, he integrates what it takes to be successful in the world with the inner wisdom unfolded to him through years of yoga and meditation. He also publishes, Letters on Life, an inspirational ezine. Signup! http://www.inspirepossibility.com