Optimism is a Choice

Happy New Year! For all of us single people out there this Christmas and New Years, it might be easy to fall into a holiday-related depression. All the happy couple photos and people getting engaged on Christmas, not having a date on New Years, and tense family dinners, can get even the most optimistic person a little down. Just remember – you have a choice for how you approach this New Year and all the years to come.

I used to find the holidays a stressful time because all my siblings and friends were in relationships and I was alone with no dating prospects – it really started to taint my love for the time of year. It got to the point that I would avoid all activities, and treat Christmas like any other day. This didn’t help. It just made me more upset that everyone else was having fun – and without me to boot. Fortunately, I had a good friend who taught me some valuable lessons, the most important of which being that optimism is a choice.

My friend (let’s call her Alice) can be a bit of a whirlwind, and we would often have the best adventures together, but what I found the most admirable was her ability to turn around any situation. The car battery died? Well, we get to make friends with the guy who gave us a jump. Broke up with your boyfriend? Excuse to eat ice cream and go dancing. Lost your job? It’s an opportunity to find a better one.

Alice had been training sled dogs in the mountains for a season (true story) so I hadn’t seen her in a while, but she came back after Christmas and our usual fun ensued. One day I asked Alice why it was so easy for her to bounce back from situations. How could she just brush off her emotions and move forward? Alice stopped what she was doing abruptly and we had a long chat – I’ll try to sum it up.

First of all, she made it clear that ‘brushing off emotions’ is NEVER a good idea. It’s ok to be sad, or angry or disappointed – she just made a point of not letting it affect her core beliefs about life and herself. Alice told me that she thought the most important thing in her life was the choice to be optimistic about the future. She made the choice to take every situation that comes her way, pleasant or not, and use it as a building block to get her life to a point where she was personally satisfied.

I found this to be a bit blah. “Yeah,” I told her, “Be optimistic, my life isn’t exactly an after school special here, it isn’t always that easy.” Alice laughed and said “Do you think my life is easy? More importantly – is it supposed to be?” Well, that was a good point, I guess it is too much to ask that life be great AND that I don’t have to work at it. I guess part of me was hoping she’d have the magic cure. Take two of these and call me in the morning, type of thing, no work required.

Alice gave me an example – it’s all about options and outcomes she said, what are the options I have and what outcome do I want? If I am in an embarrassing situation – a date doesn’t go well for example – what are my options? I can dwell on it and let it negatively impact my life and future dates or I can take it as a lesson and use it to help me decide how and who I want to date in the future. Only one of those options results in an outcome I feel good about, so the decision is easy. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel bad, or embarrassed, or sad, for the missed opportunity, it just means I don’t let those emotions rule my future.This made sense to me, I’m an analytical person and it was all out logical decision making which was something I could understand. Alice summed everything up by telling me that in her mind, optimism was a choice that she made every day. Now I try to make a choice to be optimistic whenever I can, it isn’t always easy and I don’t always manage to pull it off perfectly but that’s ok, I just move forward and try again.