Pessimism leads us to Criticise. Optimism helps us make them Better

"Pessimism leads us to criticise things. Optimism helps us make them better."

"Pessimism leads us to criticize things. Optimism helps us make them better."

This statement encapsulates a profound truth about human perspective and its power to shape our reality. Mark Williamson, the Director of Action for Happiness, tweeted this sentiment today, and it resonates deeply with the themes I've encountered in numerous interviews and explored in my book "Optimism: The How and Why," particularly in the chapter "Making the World a Better Place."

Optimism isn't merely a feel-good state of mind; it's a pragmatic approach to life's challenges. It is the conviction that our actions can lead to a better future. James Pearson, CEO of the City of Joondalup, beautifully articulates this by saying, "What makes me an optimist is because I believe in the future. And to believe in the future means that you are always ready to do things today that will make life better, for yourself and for your family and for your community, tomorrow."

John Stanhope, Chancellor of Deakin University, echoes this sentiment, expressing unyielding faith in human creativity as the wellspring of progress: "I am extremely optimistic about our future because the creativity of people always finds a way to solve problems and change things for the better."

Optimism is not a denial of current struggles. Nikki Hutley from Economics for a More Equitable and Sustainable World admits to not always being optimistic but finds hope in the tenacity of the human spirit: "I have to confess I'm not always optimistic. But it's often at the bleakest of times that we see the best of humanity. In the end, I think it's seeing others striving to make the world a better place, inch by inch, that keeps me optimistic and motivated."

The belief in inherent human goodness is a cornerstone of optimism. Jodie Ginsberg, President of the Committee to Protect Journalists, finds strength in the narrative of human kindness: "In a world in which it's easy to feel bombarded by the negative, I am constantly uplifted by the stories of those striving to make the world a better place - through small acts of kindness and grand acts of sacrifice. Human beings are essentially good. Knowing that is enough to champion the case for optimism."

Dr. Richard Munang of UNEP's Africa Regional Climate Change Programme reminds us of the transformative power of a collective mindset shift: "What makes me optimistic is the people of the world. With a mindset change, we can start to know that there is no problem that we the people cannot solve. We will make the world a better place."

For Helen Szoke, then CEO at Oxfam Australia, optimism is not optional; it's essential: "We don’t have the luxury of not being optimistic. There is too much in the world that needs optimism as the force for good and the motivation for change to make the world a better place. Yes, let’s analyze what is wrong and what needs to be done, but then be optimistic that we can make change. If we don’t have optimism, then we don’t have hope!"

Abhishek Bhati, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Bowling Green State University, and Sibonginkosi Abigail Moyo, Co-Founder of the Love Alive Foundation, both stress the importance of individual and collective efforts to foster a better world.

Joel Backwell, then Executive Director of the Victorian Government's Office for Suburban Development, speaks to the power of diversity in fostering optimism: "What makes me optimistic is the power of diversity and knowing that the best in everyone is good enough. And that as leaders, if we nurture and bring out the best in everyone in our community, we can solve any problem, meet any challenge and make the world a better place for us all."

Finally, Tamsin Jowett, President of Aspergers Victoria, shares a personal testimony to the role of optimism in advocacy and change: "My optimism comes from my own rose-glasses that reframe my life, my future. This optimism fuels my drive to change views about neurodiversity, so others also realize the value and true potential of difference in others."

In these challenging times, when pessimism may seem like the easier path, the collective optimism of these individuals and many others illuminates the way forward. Their conviction is that we cannot only make the world a better place, but we are already doing so—one act of kindness, one creative solution, and one hopeful vision at a time.

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