Make Optimism Work for You

Hope is a divinely implanted instinct.


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Hope is the mainspring of all endeavour. Take hope away, and life loses not only it meaning, but its urge to live.

A friend, who had been a prisoner of war for two years told me that many of his comrades died in the camp simply because they lost the will to live. The conditions were harsh. But even so, there was nothing much organically wrong with these men. They simply had given up hope that deliverance would come. Men can endure almost anything. If they still hope.

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Hope is a divinely implanted instinct. “Hope springs eternal in the human breast”, wrote the poet Alexander Pope. It is the most powerful dynamo for fullness of living. Its effect can never be over – estimated – on health, personal achievement, and human situations of every kind.

Medical science in recent years has come to recognize  the psychological importance of the mental and emotional attitude of the patient in illness. Patients with sanguine, hopeful temperaments react to medication for more quickly. Psychologically speaking, the explanation is simple. The human body is more than a physical organism. As psychosomatic science teaches, mind and body are so closely interrelated, that every thought and feeling of the mind is registered in the nerve cells and carried to every part of the body – heart, stomach, muscles, even the most obscure corners.

Fresh Vitality:

In any illness, a hopeful, optimistic frame of mind in the patient is the doctor’s best ally, calling up fresh resources of strength and vitality from every part of the organism. The same applies to any business enterprises or worthwhile undertaking. The shop – keeper who wants to extend his premises, and allows doubts and fears to crowd in on his mind, may as well close  his doors.

The optimist, on the other hand, is a realist who doesn’t need to be told of the hazards  awaiting him, and that there is no insurance against failure. But he dares to hope that he can, and will, make a success of things – and that makes all the difference.

Think failure, and you will get just that. Think success and the possibilities of success are all with you. It simply means this, that what you think and believe in and hope for, tends to become true.

Does It Work?

William James founded what is called the philosophy  of pragmatism. It  means: the test of the truth of any theory, idea, dogma is, when applied to daily life, how does it work out?

The gloomy, pessimistic, attitude applied to any problem, difficulty, human  situation, does not work for us. It ends in frustration, failure, defeat. The optimistic attitude brings with it promise and fulfilment. It pays rich dividends.

How can one cultivate the optimistic outlook? Temperamentally it is more difficult for some people than for others. Some are naturally of a sunny disposition, while  others seem born with on over – anxious, gloomy nature. Low vitality or a robust constitution can also make a difference. The truth is there is something of the optimist and the pessimist in everybody’s make – up. It is for us to tip the balance one way or the other. You can, if you will.

1. Begin with your manner of speech:

Ours is a disillusioned age. It is the fashion to be cynical about almost everything. Avoid this at all costs. If you have nothing good or  approving to say, say nothing. If there is something uplifting and encouraging to say, be sure to say it. It helps others, and helps you. Speech has a reflex action. we become the way we speak cool and calculating, depressed and gloomy, or bright and cheerful.

2. Don’t run away from problems:

Where there is a will, there is a way. And there must be a way out. Deal with the matter realistically. Set down  on paper the pros and cons of the case, and study them as a detached observer. Examine the alternate possibilities. If this does not succeed, what other ways are there? Seeing things in their true perspective is the first step to coping with a problem. Tackle it with a lighter and more courageous heart.

3. Apply the optimistic attitude to personal relationships:

If someone irritates you, you can be filled with resentment and  may even reach  a stage where you hate that person. This is bad for you. Relax a little and examine the other side of the picture. Consider the good points of that individual. We all have our faults and failings. Let the good picture fill your mind. This will not only save you from foolish and unforgiveable action, but will also work with  your friend.

4. Accept the inevitable:

If adversities like blindness, the loss  of a limb or some chronic ailment overtakes you, there is no option. You must learn to live with that for the rest of your days. Even here the optimistic, hopeful and  neat  difference. A sympathetic friend spoke thus to a man who was incapacitated by war wounds: “How this must colour your outlook!” To which the man replied: “Yes, but it depends on me to choose the colour!”

Strong Faith:

In every case that I have known, hope has been sustained by a strong and living religious faith, a passionate conviction that their lives were in God’s hands that life had a meaning  and purpose, and that no matter what happened to them. God cared and understood their need, and would help them to see it through to the end.

One of the most moving  testimonies of modern times is to be found in the letters of a German pastor, who because of his outspokenness was imprisoned and condemned to death by Hitler. His name is Bonhoeffer. In his letter from prison there is no self – pity, no complaints. He shows affectionate interest in his friends and family, and is full  of joy and good cheer. When he faced his executioners he said: “This is not the end, but a new beginning”.

Hope sustained by a living faith is invincible. You can cultivate a similar optimism and courage. The benefits will be enormous – for you, and those who are around you.

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