Victor Perton: What makes me Optimistic for 2024?

By Victor Perton, COO at The Centre for Optimism

Today, Dean Troth asked, "Victor, what is making you optimistic about 2024 (apart from having to be better than 2023)?"

So, too, Naresh Shukla asked me, "What makes you optimistic as we enter the new year?"

Fair questions as every day I ask someone or a group, "What makes you Optimistic?"

My starting point is "Optimism is a state of mind, not a state of the world."

First, I will describe what I believe to be the sources of my optimism before I turn to my optimism about 2024.

My Optimism Generally

My optimism continues to grow as I grow older, learn more about optimism's benefits, and transmit the power of optimism to others.

In my book, Optimism: The How and Why," I wrote: "I have been a lifelong optimist. Is my optimism "nature or nurture"?

Read More on "Optimism: The How and Why"

Like most optimists, I feel the same anxieties, grief, anger, frustration and pain of failure as anyone else, but I always think things will work out alright in the end.

I was born in Australia and am fortunate that the traumas my ancestors and family suffered on the way to Australia strengthened them and their realistic optimism.

My ancestors embodied the belief that optimism is a state of mind, not dependent on the state of the world. They held firm to resilience, fuelled by their unwavering faith in the better aspects of humanity.

Profound struggles mark my family's history. My great-grandparents endured the oppressive occupation of Czarist Russia, while my grandparents and parents faced the horrors of Soviet (Russian) terror with unwavering courage. 

My grandparents and parents faced Soviet terror with courage, and the family survived through optimism, courage and persistence. Tens of millions of people like us were executed by the Soviets, so there is an element of luck in our survival, too.  

Tragedy struck my paternal grandfather, who was tortured to death by the NKVD (the predecessor of the KGB), and my paternal grandmother, who was sent to the Gulag. My maternal grandparents and parents were refugees, often facing the threat of death or the Gulag. 

Yet, amidst these immense challenges, my paternal grandmother, Bronislava Petronaitiene, shone as a beacon of inspiration. Surviving the Gulag, she was determined to outlive communism and actively participated in civil disobedience that eventually contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Her unwavering resolve left an indelible impression on me.

Most importantly, I had the lifelong influence of my mother, Lilia Perton. She died at 92 in 2020 and taught yoga until a few months before her death. Mum's stories of teenage life in Europe in the 1940s during war and famine could have been hair-raising. Still, 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 said that yoga practice and meditation helped her to manage life with optimism and strength. Her motto was 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.

How did I come to be doing this rewarding work of spreading optimism by asking people what makes them optimistic?

I spent several years in the Americas working in international trade and development and then as a senior adviser to the G20 presidency. My work was made easier by the very powerful positive stereotype of Australians.

When I returned to Melbourne, Australia, I was struck by the negativity toward leadership. Increasing negativity also struck me in language and humour.

Rather than complain about the complainers, I established the Australian Leadership Project. After thousands of interviews, we concluded the leadership was comparatively good. However, I remained perplexed by the level of negativity.  

In late 2017, my Eureka moment came. It was not a problem of leadership but a fog of pessimism.

I started interviewing people about their optimism and found the most compelling question was, "What makes you Optimistic?"

I wrote and published the book "The Case for Optimism: The Optimists' Voices."

Following the publication of that book, I was struck by people's desire to learn more about how to be optimistic and the yearning for stories of optimism and hope.

I made asking the question "What makes you optimistic?" into a habit - meeting people formally and informally in interviews, on the street and social media.    

For most people, it's the first time they have been asked about their optimism and its source.

I present the case for optimism in keynote speeches, workshops, roundtables, and retreats in corporate environments, universities, schools, community groups, and even in prison.

Thinking about how I enhance my optimism, I am grateful for the circumstances in which I live. I engage in daily gratitude practices, ensuring I thank people for their service. 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 I could always do it more. I enjoy the beauty of nature and try to rise before dawn to enjoy the orange and yellow colours of the morning and the song of the magpies. If exceptional, I take photos of the dawn light and share them with family, friends, and social media.

I have turned down the news and used carefully selected search agents to find the good news that interests me. I am fortunate to have family and friends share materials with me. But, of course, I don't want to be a hermit, so I keep in touch with mainstream news services despite the overwhelming pessimism they propagate.

I enjoy humour and cartoons; most days, I listen to, search for, and tell some jokes. My preference is for the Australian tradition of self-effacing humour.

And, of course, I have the advantage of asking people what makes them optimistic almost every day and sharing those answers with the world. That's uplifting and joyful.


My Optimism About 2024

I hope optimism emerges as a guiding force in 2024 to counter the zeitgeist of pessimism in the new media.

The other day, I read a comment by the new Football Club Queen's Park Rangers manager, Martí Cifuentes, who said, "I'm just a very optimistic person. I don't have any magical recipe."

I know optimism. I am not a magician.

My friend John Hagel described me today as a contagious optimist. I teach infectious optimism. Since mid-year, I have added magnetic optimism as an optimism I want to teach and foster.

Carbon scientist Julio Friedmann's expression, "It doesn't matter whether I'm optimistic or you're optimistic. It matters if we're optimistic." 

My research shows that optimism does not come from a leader's grand speeches or an organisation's statement of purpose. It comes from the heart, it comes from faith, it comes from life experience.

It's essential in the group.

It's essential in times of despair and uncertainty. It's vital in tough times, as in the German Jewish psychotherapist Viktor Frankl's "Tragic Optimism" or in the excellent work of fiction "Pollyanna".

Read "In Praise of Pollyanna"

Put well today by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, "Despite the many challenges that our country is facing, we do have cause for hope and optimism. Our hope and our optimism are based on the knowledge that we have faced many hardships in the past and have overcome them. I therefore firmly believe that better days lie ahead."

So what about the issues of 2024?

The Continuum of Progress

Our evolution, history and inheritance is a rich tapestry of optimism, resilience and progress. As 2024 dawns, we are inheritors and drivers of this legacy, propelled by innovation, wisdom, and an enduring spirit of exploration.

Advances in Health and Well-being

The 21st century has witnessed remarkable strides in human health, leading to longer lifespans and the reduction of diseases globally. The widespread availability of vaccinations, including those against diseases like malaria, has transformed public health, saving millions of lives. These achievements in healthcare, coupled with ongoing research and development, provide a solid foundation for further advancements as we move into 2024. This progress is a significant cause for optimism, indicating our ability to tackle health challenges and enhance the quality of life for people worldwide.

Environmental Stewardship and Climate Action

As we venture into 2024, environmental stewardship and climate action remain global concerns and areas of optimism. The increasing adoption of renewable energy sources, advancements in sustainable technologies, and heightened international awareness of environmental issues signal a collective shift towards a more sustainable and responsible interaction with our planet. This gradual progress instils hope for a future where ecological sustainability and economic development go hand in hand.


Technological Innovation and Digital Inclusion

The rapid pace of technological innovation continues to reshape our world, offering new solutions to age-old problems and enhancing global connectivity. As digital technology becomes more inclusive, it paves the way for greater access to information, education, and opportunities, particularly in underserved communities. The potential of technologies like AI, IoT, and blockchain in addressing societal challenges and improving governance is immense, fueling our optimism for a more interconnected and efficient world in 2024.

The Power of Education and Knowledge

Education remains the cornerstone of progress and empowerment. The expanding reach of education through traditional means and digital platforms holds the promise of a more informed and skilled global population. Initiatives to improve education quality and accessibility, especially in developing regions, are crucial for nurturing the next generation of leaders, innovators, and thinkers. The emphasis on lifelong learning and skill development aligns with the evolving demands of the 21st century, fostering a knowledgeable and adaptable global workforce.

Cultivating a Culture of Peace and Embracing Our Shared Humanity

There is an increasing focus on fostering a culture of peace and mutual understanding worldwide. Initiatives that bridge cultural and ideological divides through dialogue, cultural exchange, and empathy play a crucial role in creating a more unified and harmonious global society.

My optimism for 2024 and the following years is deeply rooted in our shared humanity and an unwavering belief in our joint potential. The array of challenges we face, whether environmental, social, or political, can be overcome with united efforts, creativity, and compassion.

Echoing the New Year greeting of the Dalai Lama, "Despite the many challenges that we are facing today, I feel optimistic that with a growing appreciation of how interconnected we all are in the oneness of humanity, we can all work to lead more meaningful lives and create a better world."

Read More by The Dalai Lama on Optimism

Gaza: The War Will End in 2024

In Gaza, the path to a better future hinges on transcending the cycle of conflict and dependency on international aid. Can Gaza be transformed into a prosperous community that moves beyond a 70-year reliance on aid agencies? This vision encompasses revitalising the economy, modernising infrastructure, and improving access to quality education and healthcare. It's about building a self-reliant society that can thrive on its own terms.

Fostering a sense of optimism in Gaza is crucial. Societies that have faced conflict or disaster often emerge stronger, adopting a 'build back better' approach. International support in this endeavour is pivotal but should be geared towards empowering Gaza to stand independently. The global community provides resources and expertise while encouraging local leadership and community participation. This collaborative approach ensures that development efforts are sustainable, culturally relevant, and aligned with the aspirations of the Gazan people. The transformation of Gaza into a self-sustaining community offers an end to reliance on aid and a new narrative of hope, resilience, and prosperity.

Ukraine: A Testament to Resilience and Optimism

I don't know how the war in Ukraine will end, but what stands out is Ukraine's resilience in the face of incomprehensible evil and national chauvinism. This resilience is not just a response to the immediate conflict; it's a celebration of the Ukrainian spirit, already a victory of optimism and resilience. According to a December public opinion survey by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, 73% of Ukrainians believe Ukraine will be a "flourishing" country within the European Union 10 years from now. 

The nation's steadfastness in defending its sovereignty and democratic values in such challenging times is inspiring.

As Ukraine looks towards the future, the path to recovery and rebuilding is multifaceted. It will require physical reconstruction of the damaged infrastructure and healing of the deep societal wounds inflicted by the conflict. The country's steadfast optimism and determination in overcoming these challenges sets a powerful example for the world.


As we embrace 2024, let us do so with a sense of hope, responsibility, and collective ambition. 

I know that all we can do is all we can do. My role is to foster and encourage leaders who can make a difference. And the leader looks like the person in your mirror.

Optimism is the underpinning of good leadership, strategy, resilience and innovation. Let's share it around as much as we can!

What makes you optimistic?

Worth Doing: Our 5-Minute Survey on "What makes you Optimistic?"

Some Interesting Reflections on New Year

"We experienced a challenging year, but relying on the Lord, we look to the future of our nation with hope and optimism. In the face of the occupation and depopulation of Artsakh, the severe situation created around Armenia, and the existing problems, we must resolutely overcome the difficulties, keeping strong the dedication and love for our homeland and faith in our Almighty Lord," said His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.

Action for Happiness commends, "Look forward with optimism. 2024 will have its challenges but there will be many acts of kindness and happy moments too."

"Here's to embracing the future with optimism and gratitude."

"We’re kicking off the year with renewed optimism, endless possibilities, and a determination to make this another impactful year dedicated to advancing Latina economic and political parity."

"Techno-optimism is not an end in itself, but an ethical imperative, the goal is not as difficult to define as we often think. Jonas Salk, the American physician, immunologist, and developer of the inactivated polio vaccine, described the goal as follows: “Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors.” Our descendants should have an even better life than we do, but to accomplish this, we have to be optimistic and set out for a leap over the brink of utopia to make the world greener, healthier, and wealthier."
Food for thought from the Next Big Idea Club summarising "On the Brink of Utopia: Reinventing Innovation to Solve the World’s Largest Problems."
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