What do you do when the situation is out of your control? How can optimism help you when the future is fraught with uncertainties?
At the height of World War II, millions of people were incarcerated in prisons and detention camps under very difficult circumstances. In these difficult times, you were faced with some of the questions that we posed earlier. There were two types of people in the detention camps and the prisoners. These were the survivors and the victims. Research shows that people, to a large extent, self-select into one of two groups. And each group had defining characteristics, of which optimism was one.
The victims, most of whom never made it out of the fields alive, had two main defining characteristics. The first of these was incorrigible pessimism. The moment they were captured, they resigned themselves to their fate. They concluded that life as they knew it was over and there was no future. Thus they became prisoners of war and also prisoners of circumstance. Having convinced themselves that there was no future, they folded their arms and prepared to perish. Often his pessimism was a self-fulfilling promise. They passed away pretty quickly.
The second characteristic of those who perished was excessive optimism. These were the people who said to themselves and to others: “Don’t worry, for Christmas we will be out and about at home.” Christmas came and went and they were still in custody in even more severe condition because conditions worsened as the war escalated. Then they said: “By Easter we will be free.” But again the Passover came and went and they were still prisoners and detainees. Soon his “optimism” faded and gave way to despair and heartbreak. Once despair turned to death, he soon visited the front steps.
How did your “optimism” fail you?
There is a big difference between optimism and excessive arrogance. What these people had was not optimism but excessive arrogance that was not anchored in reality. True optimism does not condone the brutal facts of today’s reality. Your future starts now. And NOW is your current reality.
True optimism is anchored in hope. Hope is defined as a wish with the expectation of fulfillment. Without desire there is no hope. And without expectation there is no hope. The danger of excessive arrogance is that it ignores the facts and therefore generates actions that are out of sync with reality.
The true optimist must possess these two comforts: desire and expectation. Do not confuse two things. They are the faith that it will finally prevail, and the discipline to face the most brutal events of today’s reality.
Faith that one will prevail in the end is a good that one can never afford to lose. The focus is on the end, and not necessarily on the way and the means to that end. True optimism recognizes that the road can be bumpy and thorny, but hopes that in the end the desired destination will be reached. It is based on the understanding that the current reality is real but fleeting. It is a leg of a journey and not the destination of the journey. This is a kind of nuanced optimism called FLEXIBLE OPTIMISM.
The problem with excessive arrogance is not trust or belief or faith. The danger comes from unrealistic schedules that lead to unrealistic expectations. When expectations are frustrated, the heart tires easily. While the man of excessive arrogance was declaring: “We will get out of jail for Christmas”, which was a calendar over which he had no control, the flexible optimist said: “I do not care how long it takes. I know. That in the end I will be. free “. Consequently, one hypnotized himself into a sense of false security while the other faced his daily challenges in a balanced way. What matters is not how things may appear now, but what the end result will be.
There are many things that we may never have under control, such as the schedules that prisoners of war faced. However, there are some things that we have complete control over. The faith that things will work out in our favor in the final analysis is a precious asset that no one or any situation can steal from you. The most vital of human freedoms is the freedom to choose one’s thoughts, dreams, expectations, and desires. Even prisoners cannot be stripped of these freedoms.
Since no one can take it from you, only you can set limits for yourself.
The worst form of dispossession is self-dispossession and this occurs when people focus excessively on the possible negative outcome and its consequences to such an extent that they become paralyzed in the present. This also occurs when people have such excessive arrogance that they begin to ignore current realities and behave as if they do not exist to their own detriment.
Flexible optimism is the balance between the two. It is summed up in one sentence. Keep faith that you will prevail in the end regardless of current difficulties, but take action now to begin challenging those difficulties.
The circumstances of our lives will begin to improve when we begin to seriously confront them and challenge them with planned actions.
Never lose hope of winning in the end, but never tolerate the current reality. This is a flexible optimism that saved the day for many in the concentration camps.
Be a prisoner of hope and not a prisoner of circumstances.