About Rowena

Hello, my name is Ro, and I believe that it is possible for you to turn your ordinary life into an extraordinary life - to find true happiness, while remaining, selfless, mindful and compassionate towards other living beings. Here at my blog, I interview and post articles by musicians, writers, world travelers, humanitarians and other amazing individuals who are doing just that. I also share with you various anecdotes about my own totally awesome existence as a musician, composer, journalist, environmentalist, and compassionati. My hope is to connect with you, enlighten you, inspire you and lead you down the path to true happiness. Compassion is always in fashion and it starts with you loving that most important of people, yourself.

December 14, 2010

Why I Choose Optimism

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.  

Winston Churchill

According to Leo Babauta of Zen Habits  the Three Secrets to Happiness are good relationships, positive thinking and flow.   I have previously written about relationships  and flow and am very excited to have this opportunity to express my views on positive thinking.

I am an optimist.  Sure my life has its ups and downs - its not all sprinkles and stars, but it takes a helluva lot to send me into a complete tail spin, and on those rare occasions in my life where I do crash and burn, I don't stay grounded for long.  I have a great deal of compassion for the pessimists in this world, in that all human beings just want to be happy dog gone it!  I want all human beings to be happy too. That's why I created Rousing Rowena - this is my way of helping.   So we will start with:

Common misconceptions about optimists:

1.   We tend to look at the world through rose colored glasses, seeing only the good, never the bad.

2.   We are blissfully unaware that life is innately tragic - we live in a fantasy world.

3.    We always believe that one way or another, everything is going to be just fine.

4.    We sugarcoat everything, see the silver lining to every gray cloud.

The truth about optimists:

1.  We prefer to maintain a positive spirit, rather than wallow in misery.

2.  We are motivated to finding solutions to life's problems, rather than caving in to despair.

3.   We compartmentalize our failures, rather than seeing ourselves as total failures when one thing doesn't turn out the way we planned - we don't let one failure or misfortune ruin our entire lives.  

4.   We keep a broader perspective, looking at the situation from various angles, seeking out possible positive aspects of a given situation that might present a challenge to our negative thoughts. 

5.   We understand that there are some things in this world that you simply cannot do anything about.  In those instances, we accept it with the attitude of why spend the rest of your life beating yourself up over something that you simply cannot change.   

6.   We also understand that there are things that we strive for in our lifetimes which we may not live long enough to see come to fruition - such as world peace, but at the same time realize that we can still make important contributions to the future of this world. 

Can one be too optimisticYes, of course!   Balance is as important when it comes to optimism as it is with anything else.   Nothing is good in the extreme and it is important to use mindfulness in all that you do.  If you don't know how to ski, you probably should start out on the bunny slopes, and maybe take some lessons before hitting the more advanced runs.  If the nearby field is full of landmines, don't go skipping through it as if you were invincible - for the sake of the kiddies you should probably move to another town.    Do not underestimate the risks involved, or overestimate your own capabilities.   Take an optimistically realistic approach.  

Why Optimism?

1.  Optimists are higher achievers - especially when it comes to creativity.   Pessimists often give up at the first sign of adversity.

2.  Optimists have better overall health than pessimists.

3.  Optimists bounce back more quickly from failure.  Pessimists recover slowly, if they ever recover at all.

4.   Optimists cope better in all manner of difficult situations, from life's little dramas to major tragedies, and experience less stress than pessimists do.  

You can retrain your mind to be more optimistic through practice.   Start small, and then work your way up to life's bigger problems.

1.  Identify your negative thoughtOh no!  The battery on my car is dead and I am going to be late for rehearsal!   This is going to make the rest of the band mad at me!

2.  Broaden your perspective - ask yourself, how can I see things differently?   Good thing I got an early start.  I still have time to work this out.  First, I will call ahead and apologize - let them know what happened and that I may be a little late - but I will be there.  In the meanwhile, boy am I glad that this didn't happen to me last night when we played that gig at that dive bar on the other side of town.  Whew!

3.  Look for possible solutions.  I can either get a jump start or find another form of transportation.

4.  Draw from your resources.  Let's see . . . I could call Auto Club, ask my  neighbor for a jump, take a taxi . . . or maybe ask our guitarist Conrad to swing by and pick me up on his way to rehearsal.  He doesn't live very far from here. That's it, I'll call Conrad.

5.  Think of a troublesome situation as temporary, rather than being long term or permanent.  I'll have this worked out soon . . . and first thing tomorrow, I'm going to get a new battery.   I am lucky that this one lasted as long as it did. 

The above optimistic approach to the situation is both reasonable and realistic.  You are probably going to make it to rehearsal after all and everyone is going to be happy.   On the off chance that none of your solutions work, at least everyone is going to know that the band is important to you and that you tried.

Given the same situation the pessimistic you might be swearing a blue streak, kicking the bumper, declaring the entire automobile a piece of junk, and yourself a total loser.  You are thinking about quitting the band, fairly certain they were about to dump you anyways after you blew that bass solo last night  . . . maybe you will give up music altogether - nothing ever works out the way you want it to.   In the meanwhile the clock is ticking away, as your original negative thought becomes reality.  Too bad, because Conrad is a really nice guy who would have been happy to give you a ride if you had only let him know - he wants what is best for the band and incidentally, he thinks you are an awesome bassplayer.

Life is innately tragic and all human beings suffer.  Your ability to cope with life's little difficulties, as well as its major upsets is integral to your overall level of happiness.   The more you practice realistic optimism the more realistically hopeful you will become and the more you will realize that you do have the potential to turn your dreams into a reality.   As Cheryl Maloney of Simple Steps . . . Real Change says "good happens."  Now go out and live your extraordinary life, and know that I love you!



Ro's Notes:

This year, in honor of my readers, I am making donations to three of my favorite charities,  St. Jude Children's Research HospitalAnimal Welfare Institute, and Greenpeace.  All of these charities give me hope for a better tomorrow!   That is my way of saying thanksIn the spirit of the season and also in honor of all of those other bloggers who inspire me so tremendously throughout the year, from now through December 31, 2010, I will donate ALL commissions made by me through affiliate sales on the books listed in the  right side bar of this blog under Ro's Recommendations, to these charities! 


FB @ FabulouslyBroke.com said...

I am a big fat optimist. Sure, I get negative thoughts once in a while but it's to temper my optimism from rising out of control :)

Ro said...

I like your style! :)