Optimism . . . is hard. It can take work. It demands focus in the face of contradiction. It's a habit of mind, and like all habits it can be easy to lose.
What does this discipline look like? How can I develop this "habit of mind?" Here are three ways:
- Love yourself (and others). God is love, and we are created in the image of God. We all bear the imprint of Christ--"I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you." (John 14:20) We are all worthy of love, and we are all loved. Spend a few moments each day and identify times when you have loved and when have received love.
- Disrupt negativity. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to being optimistic is the notion that we are unworthy--flawed, broken, "sinful." While true--we are all broken in some way; we all bear wounds that prevent us from believing that we are loved--this is not helpful thinking. So, when a negative thought occupies your mind, affirm your value. Speak it out loud and in the present tense.
- Learn from suffering. Suffering is unavoidable; yet we can't help trying to avoid suffering. But this only leads to more suffering. Thus begins a vicious cycle. Rather than trying to avoid it, treat suffering as a teacher. Pay close attention to the pain--describe it objectively--and ask: Where do you come from? Where will you lead me? What do you have to teach me? Then listen with compassion. You might be surprised with what you will learn.
We need optimism if we are going to survive the commute of life, that is, the journey to our true self. Through the hard work of optimism, we will discover our desire to know God fully as God knows us (see 1 Corinthians 13:12). Through optimism, we discover hope; from this hope springs yet more optimism. This is how we dance to the words of Julian of Norwich, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."