Intelligent optimism

Jurriaan Kamp, Netherlands

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Ode Magazine.

(Submitted by The Art of Living Team)

All of us are born intelligent optimists. All of us! You don’t believe me? Let me ask you this: have you ever met a pessimistic 5-year-old? Did you ever see a child who fell to the ground, bloodied his knees and, after drying his tears, said he wasn’t going to run anymore?

Such children don’t exist. They get up, try again and keep smiling - even if sometimes through their tears. Each kid instinctively has the intelligence that getting past failure and continuing to try is a good, fulfilling and natural state.

So are you with me? Aren’t we all born intelligent optimists?

Intelligent optimism is a way of life. In fact, it is the way of life until we lose it. Many of us do. Somewhere, at some particular point in time, our disappointments and failures become too overwhelming, and we give up. Fear and insecurity arise, and we start surrendering to pessimism. Some will argue that it is wise to be realistic, and they see the optimist as unrealistic.

I argue that optimism - intelligent, not mindless, optimism - is the only realistic strategy for life. It is not going to prevent bad things from happening. On most days, more will go right than wrong; still, nobody can escape problems and setbacks. But the intelligent optimist accepts reality without immediately coming to a negative conclusion. From many incidents that initially seemed terrible, beautiful seeds have sprouted. We’ve all experienced times when something negative ultimately and unexpectedly led to something positive. Benjamin Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, quotes his father, who said, “There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

I hear deep wisdom in those words. We would lead far happier lives if we were more resilient - like the kid with the bloody knees. What will the result be from something that happens today? What if, like Zander suggests, we were able to respond to life - whatever happens - with these words: “Great! What’s next?”

Such a response would be true to our initial state of intelligent optimism. It is a response that provides freedom from fear. It makes us wiser, happier and more satisfied. Healthier, even.

As we travel this road, as we share this way of life, we need to keep like-minded company. I’m traveling with you as much as you are traveling with me. You are an intelligent optimist. You always have been.

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