Being positive, optimistic, future-oriented, and empowered, is not about being happy. It’s about being effective.
For as long as I can remember, my default setting has been happy but unsatisfied. That’s how I am wired; it’s my DNA. However, I don’t believe that being positive and optimistic is what will make you happy. The evidence, as far as I can tell, suggests that it is something different that gives people a feeling of satisfaction with their life. That something is progress.
The practicality of being positive is that it’s a more effective mindset than negative. A positive attitude allows you to produce better results, including the better results you produce for and with other people. There is no premium paid for possessing a negative attitude. Because a negative view doesn’t serve you, it’s impractical, expensive, and debilitating. Negativity is an anchor. It’s a drag on progress.
Believe in Eventually
When it comes to optimism, I look to Winston Churchill, who said, “Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” I know many people want to suggest that they’re a “realist.” That’s the excuse they manufacture so they don’t have to do what is necessary to make progress. It’s a way to absolve themselves of responsibility, and perhaps a way to prevent themselves from feeling bad when dealing with the failures that always precede progress. Optimism is practical. It’s a belief system that sustains your willingness to continue to make progress, succeeding eventually.
Do Today What You Want Tomorrow
The opposite of being future-oriented is being oriented to the “now” or to the past. I’ve personally studied with two Zen masters. I have a relatively well-developed sense of mindfulness. When I’m washing dishes, I can wash dishes. This is to say that your mind isn’t in either the future or the past, it’s in the flow state giving yourself over to whatever it is that you are doing. This is different from having a “now” orientation. A now-orientation for most people means that they seek comfort and entertainment now, rather than doing the work necessary to make progress on the things that will give them the life that they want. Having an orientation towards the past is even worse because it mostly allows for people to tell a story about why they can’t do what they need to do. It was the fact that they didn’t get to go to college. It’s the fact that their parents got divorced. It’s the fact that they never had a good leader at work. These are facts. But what they mean is being misinterpreted and misapplied.
A future orientation assumes the need to make progress. It means you to do what is necessary for you to have what you want tomorrow.
All of this is about empowerment. You don’t need to wait for anyone to empower you. It’s a decision that you make. It takes only a split second to make that decision and everything changes. When you take ownership of your life, every part of your life, even the most difficult parts of your life, you are now empowered to make progress. There is nothing more practical than taking responsibility, or as I sometimes put it, “Everything is your fault.” Some people read that as a negative statement and suggest that goes too far. Not everything can be their fault. If you’re not making progress, you are not exercising your power.
Progress comes slowly sometimes, with an occasional breakthrough. It sometimes requires two steps backward before you can move forward. But it never comes if you don’t do the work.
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