When you want to do something, you first need to make sure you have all that is required to complete the task. If you want to build a piece of furniture, then you need to acquire the lumber and tools. If you want to bake a cake, you need to have flour, eggs, and other ingredients. But what about achieving your goals and dreams? What are the prerequisites needed to complete such grand accomplishments.
Helen Keller, the famous American author and activist, who lost both her sight and hearing at a young age, argued that one of the requirements to any achievements was optimism. She said, "Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence." Often times, we describe optimism as just being happy or looking on the bright side of things. But Keller uses different words to describe optimism, specifically "hope" and "confidence".
Hope and confidence are the expectation that something will happen. Without these beliefs, then our hard work and practice become meaningless. After all, what is the point of studying if we don't believe we can pass the test? No, we require optimism, that is, the expectation that we can succeed, if we have any chance at actually doing so.
Cut the Negativity
So how do we consistently develop an attitude of optimism? The first thing we can do is guard our minds. When we find ourselves reacting to a situation in a negative light, we must quickly redirect our thoughts to a more optimistic outlook.
Ask yourself: where can I find hope in this situation? Once you've identified that, focus on it. Drive yourself towards that goal with confidence. Like Keller said, faith leads to achievement, so have faith that you'll have the outcome you desire. If you control your thoughts in that way, your actions, mood, and efforts will follow.
Think about the most successful people you know. Do you think they found their greatest joys by doubting themselves and being pessimistic? Probably not. Cut that out of your life. Or when you see it in your child's life, try and gently redirect them. Children are sponges. They absorb what's around them. So when you see an opportunity to demonstrate optimism, let them soak that in.
Optimistic But Not Ignorant
They say ignorance is bliss. However, we don't want our students to be blindly hopeful. If a family member has a serious illness, then you have to accept that reality. You cannot just hope that it will magically go away.
But optimism doesn't just mean being ignorant and naive. If a family member is sick, be hopeful about the possibilities. What treatments did the doctor offer? What can you do to help? Focus on these glimmers of hope and reach for them. Believe that they will succeed. That's what optimism is about. Focus on hopeful possibilities instead of negative prospects.
Now, when we teach this to children we must remind that they things may still go wrong. Just because we are optimistic doesn't mean everything will turn out OK. But even when things don't go our way, there is another opportunity for optimism. As you walk through life, be confident that whatever is on the other side is a good thing. And if not, there is always a chance to turn a corner. And another, and another.
About the Author
Master Matthew Eyler is a 5th degree black belt in the Korean martial art of Tang Soo Do and a New York State certified general and special education teacher. He has over 20 years experience practicing self-defense and teaching students of all ages and abilities.