“Optimism is the foundation of courage.” This was written by a man who was born during the American Civil War and died shortly after WWII. Imagine the hardship and discord that this man saw in his lifetime. And still, he managed to forge ahead in his time and win the Nobel Peace Prize in his day. We still look to that brief statement by Nicholas M. Butler for hope.

In times of adversity, optimism is a conscious choice. It is a courageous action and a courageous attitude. Google defines optimism as “1. hopefulness and confidence about the future successful outcome of something” and “2. the belief that good must ultimately prevail over evil in the universe.”

Optimism is not blind ignorance, nor is it a light hearted decision. Pessimism is not blind hatred, nor is it a permanent mindset. People will argue with you about this. Name callers will call optimists “fools.” Name callers will call pessimists “downers.” And then some. But we don’t need to label ourselves into one of these two categories FOREVER. We can think about it and decide. Faith and reflection are required for this kind of clarity. We need to choose how we want to think and how we want to live.

Let me give you an example. My mother called herself a pessimist. She told me her first thought every morning when she opened her eyes in bed was “I’m still here.” She explained that she was surprised that she didn’t somehow die during the night. (Note that she believed this when she was healthy.) Now an optimist could think the exact same thought “I’m still here” with a different mindset. “I’m still here” could mean that I am grateful for another day to live in this world.

In these days of great adversity in the world, we need more optimists. How to shift our thinking when we are deeply discouraged by the state of affairs? Take a break from the news. Take positive actions to make a difference. Avoid complainers. Listen to inspiring music. Read inspiring stories. Watch inspiring Ted Talks by real inspiring people. Follow the underdogs. Get enough sleep. Eat well. Exercise well. Tell your fears and worries to a supportive friend. Be a positive role model to children. Rise up with hope.Have faith.

Optimism is the choice to shine your light. Realism is that some days it will shine brighter than others. Faith is knowing that your light is forever present to share with others. Like a sunrise.

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