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The Centre for Optimism

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Wisdom: Optimism and Personal Growth

John Hagel, co-chairman for Deloitte LLP's Center for the Edge 

Optimism is the key to cultivating more of our human potential. We have infinite potential, but most of us tap into a very small portion of our potential because of fear or an inability to imagine the possibilities. Optimism is essential, but so is a realistic sense of the obstacles and roadblocks we will face on our journey. In fact, that is what will motivate us to make the journey because the opportunity is so big that it is worth addressing the challenges along the way.”


Daisaku Ikeda, President of the Soka Gakkai International lay Buddhist movement

“True optimism is based on unwavering conviction in our innate human potential.”


Hon Philip Dalidakis, Australia Post

Optimism is more than just a word or a noun, it’s a way of defining our attitude to overcoming everyday adversity. Regardless of the challenges, good and bad, tomorrow always provides us with a new start, a new opportunity of improving on yesterday. And therein lies the ultimate understanding. Optimism isn’t a destination, but one long continuous journey, in our personal & professional lives.”

Bryna Kranzler, Author of “The Accidental Anarchist”

"It isn't the circumstances of our lives that determine who we are, but rather how we respond to them. Believing in a positive outcome -- even against all odds -- allows a solution for a seemingly intractable problem to present itself. And being aware of what is going right even when in dire circumstances makes it possible to recognize other positive events in your direction."

Emiliyan Gikovski

“We each have the power to set the tone for the things we do, the way we work, the relationships we have and foster, the personal interests we pursue and enjoy; this is directly linked to the level of optimism or, said another way, the level of positive and growth mindset that we adopt and practice in everything we do; the only limitations are those we set for ourselves.”

Bernard Beckett

“Human spirit is the ability to face the uncertainty of the future with curiosity and optimism. It is the belief that problems can be solved; differences resolved. It is a type of confidence. And it is fragile. It can be blackened by fear and superstition.”

Mohsin Hamid

“Optimism isn't that I'll live forever; optimism is, in the face of a recognized temporary life, I can still find beauty and meaning and connection and something worthwhile."

Cassandra Goodman

"What makes me optimistic is that more and more leaders are realising that successful business transformation is dependent on the extent to which they themselves have the courage to embark on their own personal journey of transformation and exploration”

Kate Olson, Soul Fire Wisdom

"To Achieve Great Things, One Must See Life Through the Lens of Optimism"

Pete Jensen

"For me, cultivating optimism begins with humility, recognising that I can’t be in control of everything, and trusting that things will work themselves out.

"This act of surrender reduces anxiety and fear and frees up my creativity, hope and energy to take the actions I need for the things over which I do have control, thus making things possible.

"Lived optimism then, is a conscious daily and momentary ritual, that we all can share and pass on to those we lead." 


Professor Lisa Bortolotti, University of Birmingham

“The belief that was optimistically-biased to start with will become more and more realistic over time, because I am ready to change myself in order to change the outcome of my efforts, practising until I actually become a better driver and my chances of success increase. Optimism is never a guarantee of success, but it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Isn’t that what agency is all about, intervening on ourselves and our environment to make the world closer to how we’d like it? Sounds like a good life to me.”

Craig Dempsey, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Biz Latin Hub

“Some people will lead and others will follow, but like in life, optimism and leadership is not something that you are born with or receive, its in fact something you create, foster and grow from within”.

Melis Senova, Author of “This Human

“It’s better to think of positive future outcomes rather than negative ones. They are both equally likely because both are yet to happen! It feels better when you think about positive scenarios than negative ones, so you might as well.”

Professor Erwin Loh, Chief Medical Officer, Monash Health

Be an optimist, and be relentless in pursuing the beacon of hope, so that you are always moving towards the light that will guide you, shine on you, and keep the shadows of darkness and despair behind you. You will also make it easier for others to find you, follow you, and be inspired by you. And by moving together in the same positive direction of hope, instead of fear, you can change the world.”

Roland Weber,MaxiTRANS

“Optimism creates opportunities and allows you to rally people around you. SMART goals in both personal and business life and an open mind strongly aid in building a case for optimism which will foster growth both within and surrounds.”

Peter Kronborg, Chair, Wise Counsel Associates

"Consider Optimism as the top end of a simple straight bar magnet. It is an invisible energy that attracts good and feels good. And Pessimism is at the other end. It repels and feels bad. We can’t always be at the optimistic end but if we generally flow and feel into that energy then Like will attract Like. Simple !"

Jess Lane

"Optimists have been found in most circumstances to be better equipped to cope with life. They remain positive and steadfast, believing that no matter what, the future is bright with promise and hope."

Robin Cogan

 "My optimism is informed by a relentless pursuit of caring for children and families with complex health and social needs. Investing in the health, safety and well-being of community gives me hope that the seeds we plant today will bloom given a rich soil of compassion, nurturing, relationship building and belief in the promise each generation brings."

Joseph S. Nye, former Dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University

“Remember, in the words of the song, the best things in life are free: a kind word;  a gentle kiss from someone you love; a slanting shaft of afternoon sunlight coming in the window; a green shoot in Spring; a snowflake on your sleeve in Winter. All you have to do is remember to slow down and smell the flowers.”

Aminah Georgiou

"Optimism is looking at every situation that you encounter in your life, be it good or bad, as a learning experience. Each experience presents itself as an advantage to move forward."

Peter Adamis, Writer

"Throughout life, I have found that optimism can be a product of hope, positive reinforcement, life skills, knowledge, experience and a positive outlook on life. Optimism is a driver, an encourager and one of the characteristics of leadership"

Janelle Bruland, Author

"Optimism changes your outlook, actions, and results."

"Choosing an optimistic mindset is a choice. It's a choice that takes work and means not looking at problems as insurmountable, but rather as opportunities." 

Rowan Crosbie-Goold 

"When I know myself, live my core values everyday and exercise my strengths and top skills everyday, I am fulfilled. How can I be other than optimistic when I know I am capable in meeting and overcoming all challenges that come my way?"

Martin Haese, CEO of Business SA

“Optimism is a personal choice. Choose wisely.”

Dr John Medina, Author of “Brain Rules”

“Optimism is not just emotional insulation against the freezing wastes of mortality. We now know that elders who have positive, even optimistic, attitudes toward their own aging live longer than those who don’t. What do I mean by optimistic aging? A twenty-five-year-old who forgets somebody’s name seldom considers it a harbinger of Alzheimer’s disease. But if you’re older and your memory transmission slips a gear, you might very well worry about Alzheimer’s. You may become stressed, even depressed. As other roadside attractions of age come into view—from hearing loss to aching joints—your attitude may turn increasingly pessimistic. The data say: don’t go there. Seniors who take it in stride, convincing themselves the glass is still half-full, live a healthy 7.5 years longer than seniors who don’t. Optimism exerts a measurable effect on their brain. The volume of their hippocampus doesn’t shrink nearly as much as the glass-half-empty crowd’s does. That’s an important finding. The hippocampus, a sea-horse structure located just behind your ears, is involved in a wide variety of cognitive functions, including memory. My guess is that dopamine levels are affected, too. These seniors avoid the trap of what would otherwise turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.”


Victor Perton

Victor Matison was my uncle, a table tennis champion and an eternal optimist.  Delivering his eulogy, I referred to his lifelong optimism and quoted his favourite poem:

If you think you are beaten, you are;

If you think you dare not, you don't.
If you'd like to win, but you think you can't,
It is almost a certain - you won't.
For out in this world we find
Success begins with a fellow's will
It's all in the state of mind.
You've got to think high to rise.
You've got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win the prize.
To the stronger or faster man;
But sooner or later the man who wins
Is the one who thinks he can!

If you think you'll lose, you've lost;

If you think you're outclassed, you are;

Life's battles don't always go


Glenn Buesnel-May, Leadership Expert

“I was presented with a multitude of challenging life experiences from my earliest years. Somehow, I chose a mind-set that oriented me towards the future of possibility, of hope and ultimately, optimism. For me, it was not the phenomena of 'overcoming' challenges, but to a degree, riding them out and having faith in the oft-forgotten fact that challenges will come and a new day inevitably dawns. And it's this 'new day' that contains endless opportunity to change your lived reality. It can sometimes sound trite, but every future second of our lives gives us the 'second chance'. And it's an optimistic mind-set, partly in anticipation of that positive future of possibility, that allows us to rest on that assurance of the second chance; that opens up a new door to a new reality that defies yesterday's challenges. In contrast, especially for me, if I was pessimistic, I would have simple grown into a vessel of accumulated fear with no faculty for productive change or positive expectation. And unfortunately, it's that type of orientation that leads us to all kinds of dysfunction both individually and socially. I was lucky that as a very young child, I chose optimism over closing the door to growth and betterment by being shackled by fear. Optimism lies in the future path; a path of opportunity, of change, whereas pessimism paints that future palette with a darkness, devoid of the light of meaning and passion-driven purpose. Pessimism is driven by fear and embedded in the negative experiences of our pasts. That's why it's important to reconcile our failures and hardships (past) with the endless opportunities ahead of us (future).”

James Montgomery, CEO at AFL SportsReady

“For me I’ve always been what I would call a reflective optimist... time makes me see things more optimistically, you face adversity, you experience difficult circumstances, things look bleak, people’s behaviour impacts on you and others, you have the “if only” moments ...if only they had done this, if only they had thought of that, if only they knew this had already happened, if only.. if only.... Optimism always sounds like an easy choice - something you are born with - I’m a ..... “glass is half full” sort of guy. The choice appears like a simple dichotomy - given a choice who would be pessimistic when they can be optimistic? To move from a pessimistic experience or response to a more optimistic view is a habit and for some a skill, learned or innate.  I believe everyone starts as a good person, they make decisions along the way, they have experiences, they learn and value different things. Everything we do to others is a behaviour, we are a product of our experience and what we have learnt. And that’s where I end up, I unpack everything, I process, I accept difference, I try and make sense of why things happen and when I do my pessimism subsides, my optimism grows, my stress washes away. I smile and I breathe, capable of taking the next step, optimistically.

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