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Purpose and Optimism

Most of these insights on purpose and optimism were contributed by the author for inclusion in the book "Optimism: The How and Why."

Onisha Patel, structural biologist and artist at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and a Superstar of STEM with Science & Technology Australia

"For me, optimism begins with trying something new and see where it takes you. Regardless of the outcome, it gives you a purpose and a sense of empowerment. Along the way, it is always good to look out for others and make them feel the same."

James Macmillan, Director at PwC Australia

"I truly believe there is no motion without emotion and that 'I live what I believe I am'.  That is, where my focus goes my energy will flow.  Therefore, I believe in being an optimistic leader focussed on positive outcomes, clear on purpose and pumped about why those outcomes matter.  From there results will always follow."

Denise Allen

"Optimism is the light in one's heart and mind that brings joy and purpose into our lives. But without having the courage of your convictions, principles, ethics, tolerance, compassion and love for others this light will only flicker and eventually fade"

Professor Roy Green, University of Technology Sydney

"I share with Antonio Gramsci an optimism of the will combined with pessimism of the intellect. There is no point in optimism unless it has some basis in reality, but likewise there is no point in the intellect unless it is directed towards a wider human purpose."


Jane Ollis, Chair, Kent Institute of Directors

“Optimism draws you into the future. It puts you in the right space to create compelling purposeful visions, how to achieve them and then, the icing on the cake, it supplies you with the positive energy and drive you need to deliver them. Like a gentle wind pushing you from behind it steers you around obstacles as they appear in your path and keep you focussed on where you are heading.”

Diann Rodgers-Healey, Director, Australian Centre for Leadership for Women

"Optimism is believing in the greatness of humanity and its potential to reach heights for the greater good. It is knowing that one has endless inner resources that one can draw upon when needed to transform barriers. My case for optimism is linked to purpose and integrity as each of the three are intertwined in clarifying and persisting a way forward."

John Salter, Disaster Resiliance Consultant

"What makes me optimistic? That humans can exercise free will guided by purpose. History is threaded with struggles - at all levels, from individuals to global efforts - to achieve. That freedom often generates a struggle between opposites, but that is the dialectic we all move forward with."

Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever

“The future lies in the hands of the younger generation and that gives me huge cause for optimism.  Wherever I go in the world, the young people I meet are engaged with the issues and challenges we face and focussed on finding solutions.  Above all, they are driven by a deep sense of purpose.  They may only represent 50% of today, but fortunately young people are 100% of tomorrow, and that is reason to celebrate”.

Victor Perton

Research shows that religious beliefs and practices are related to greater optimism, higher life satisfaction, happiness, hope, purpose and lower levels of anxiety and depression.

Harvard Professor David Rosmarin and Director of the McLean Hospital Spirituality & Mental Health Program

“Across the gamut of religious traditions, spirituality can engender the perspective that things happen for some reason and serve a greater purpose. This, in turn, deploys our attention toward the potential for a brighter future, which can create a sense of optimism even when one’s situation seems dire."

Rik Schnabel

"Optimism is knowing that there is a grander purpose in everything."

Repa Patel, Executive Coach and Yoga Teacher

"When a leader engages the hearts and minds of their team by articulating the deeper impact of their work, it connects to a higher purpose and provides meaning and optimism beyond economic transactions."

Adam Bowcutt, Author

“Optimism must be the foundation of strategy because the power of collective confidence helps create sustained energy and momentum. Consistent high performance is a result of an optimistic and purposeful vision of the future."

“He was an eternal optimist who prioritized faith and family, which infused his life with meaning and purpose.”
On John Braxton Gaither

Sue Barrett, Author of the “Selling Better Manifesto"

“It all starts with opportunity. Opportunity makes it possible to do good things. Optimism is ignited when real opportunities for growth and prosperity become clear to us. Different from blind optimism, Purposeful Optimism is built on substance: derived from strategy and underpinned by well-resourced people who are enabled to pursue opportunity and do something meaningful with others. Optimism keeps the light of opportunity glowing even when the world seems dark.“

The Time is NOW for Purposeful Optimism

Ron Jones

“There is hope. My own view of leadership is that what separates leaders from managers is the focus on 'purpose': defining purpose for ourselves, for our organisations and for our community is the essence of what shapes the future. No-one leads for the past - they lead for the future. So the very nature of leadership is that it is something we can all contribute to according to our purpose. When each of us is asked to express our purpose it seems to me that this cannot be done without being optimistic. Even where the circumstances or events that we face are in themselves tragic, there is an emergence of ourselves as better able to learn from the experience to shape a better future.”

Glenn Buesnel-May, Leadership Expert

“In geo-strategic terms, staying optimistic about the future is getting tough. I think the answer to pessimism is local, even private action. Putting your hands and heart into meaningful, social pursuits can give focus and a sense of purpose that enriches personal optimism and community capital. There's a tonne of studies that show how social pursuit and volunteering supports emotional health. No doubt a focus on helping and leading others can build optimism and enlighten any dark prognosis of the future.”


Chris Botha, Economic Development Professional

"Optimistic leadership starts with a choice, a choice everyone is given every time they walk into their office, workplace, home, sports ground, cultural venue or public space. That choice is to always engage with your fellow humans with a real curiosity and interest. Always remind yourself that everyone else has many stories to tell and by listening and engaging with those stories we make them realise that they have a narrative and a purpose. It encourages them and makes them believe in themselves. Their stories also make your own life more interesting; it makes you realise the capabilities and resilience of the people around you and it also makes you more confident about what you are capable of."

Dr Steve Weitzenkorn, Co-author, The Catalyst Effect

Great leaders, regardless of their role or title, invigorate with optimism to achieve extraordinary results. Optimistic leadership has the power to galvanize — to catalyze — and be a force for driving an organization to new heights, turning performance around, and rebuilding momentum. 

Extensive research has shown that optimism generates purposeful energy, creative thinking, and a drive for results. It propels and creates a belief in great possibilities. Intel cofounder Robert Noyce said optimism is “an essential ingredient of innovation. How else can the individual welcome change over security, adventure over staying in safe places?”  Invigorating with Optimism, one of the 12 competencies described in The Catalyst Effect, conveys a can-do spirit. Can’t-do advocates are quick to cite reasons why something cannot be accomplished and why efforts to try are a waste of time and energy. If naysayers had prevailed, people would have never landed on the moon; laparoscopic surgery that reduces body trauma, pain, scarring, and recovery time would not have been developed; and you wouldn’t have a smartphone in your pocket or bag. All of these, and far more, came about because optimists believed they were possible — which triggered high-energy, catalytic undertakings that brought them to fruition.

Central to Invigorating with Optimism is the strong and shared belief that a team or organization can rise to great heights, whether from great depths or the middle of the pack, and excel with its own winning formula.  


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