I have been a lifelong optimist. Like most optimists, I have my share of grief and failure, but I always think that things will work out alright in the end.
As I reflect on that question I ask so may people, "What makes me Optimistic?", I think it may go back several generations.
I was born in Australia and am fortunate that the traumas suffered by my ancestors and family on the way to Australia strengthened them and their realistic optimism. Some of the older family stories of book-smuggling and culture-preservation in the face of Czarist Russian prohibitions bring a smile to my face.
My grandparents and parents faced Soviet terror with courage, and the family survived through optimism and persistence.
As a former military leader, my paternal grandfather was tortured to death by the NKVD during the pre-WW2 Soviet invasion of Lithuania. My paternal grandmother was sent to the Gulag. My maternal grandparents and parents were refugees facing death on several occasions.
My paternal grandmother was a great example to me. After surviving the Gulag, Bronislava was determined to outlive communism and participated in the civil disobedience which led to the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Most importantly, I had the lifelong influence of my mother, Lilia, who died at the age of 92 in October 2020 and taught yoga until February of that year. Mum's stories of teenage life in Europe in the 1940s during war and famine could have been hair-raising but she usually told them with humour and almost always with a happy ending. Lilia showed great courage and resilience when my father passed away after a short illness when I was eight. She says that yoga practice and meditation helped her to manage life with optimism and strength. Her motto passed down to me, "Strong and Calm I manage my life."
A week before she died, she told me that she believed that the work I am doing asking people what makes them optimistic is the most important work I have done.
Thinking about how I enhance my optimism, I am very grateful for the circumstances in which I live.
My children and I engage in daily gratitude practices. And, of course, it’s always nice to be on the receiving end of other people’s gratitude.
I meditate in several styles from simple breathing exercises to guided meditation to using mantras. I do yoga but could always do with more. I enjoy the beauty of nature and schedule a walk at first-light to enjoy the colours of the dawn. If the colours are exceptional, I take photos and share with family and friends and on social media.
As advised in my writings and speeches, I have turned down the news and use carefully selected search agents to find the good news that’s interesting to me. I am fortunate to have family and friends share materials with me. Of course, I don’t want to be a hermit, so I keep in touch with mainstream news services once a day despite the overwhelming pessimism they propagate.
I enjoy humour and cartoons and most days listen to and search out some jokes and tell some jokes. My preference is for the Australian tradition of self-effacing humour.
And, of course, in having the primary role of running The Centre for Optimism, editing its website and social media, I have the advantage that almost every day, I ask people what makes them optimistic and share those answers with the world. That’s uplifting and joyful.
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