Paul Oestreicher has become Optimistic Redefining what it Means to Him
"I’ve been able to become more optimistic by redefining what it means to me. It’s the big and the little; it’s the near and the far, it’s the prospect of the small win and the chance for the huge victory. And, it’s the realization that, with the finite amount of time we have, the alternative simply is not acceptable. Both internal and external forces and events affect us, drive us. Expanding the universe of what can provide hope, happiness, or satisfaction pays dividends for the rest of our lives."
That's what Paul Oestreicher, PhD, communication expert and author, told me when I asked him what makes him optimistic.
What makes you optimistic?
As we are approaching our collaboration with The Art and Science of Joy and its 2023 Year of Joy, I asked Paul what he sees as the connection between joy and optimism.
Paul told me that "the connection between joy and optimism is concrete and amorphous. You’re an optimist if joy is found in little things or in the small steps along a longer path. But joy can be short-lived, often driven by some external event. Optimism is more innate and enduring and comes from a mindset or from a deliberate redefinition of hope or success."
Paul has written an excellent essay, "Searching for Optimism in 2023" which is a very worthy read.
Searching for Optimism in 2023 By Paul Oestreicher
I’m trying really hard to remain an optimist. As we grow older, conversations become graver. Life gets more complicated and less certain. There’s less talk about hopes for the future and more about missed opportunities.
Our world gives us too many reasons to complain, and I do my best to pull out of what is sometimes a very appealing spiral. Sometimes it takes a conscious, sustained effort to remain on a positive trajectory. When others try to engage me in a grumble session, yes, I will most likely join in—at least for a while. Then, I’ll usually catch myself.
It’s not about ignoring the negative; this is not an exercise in mutual exclusivity. We must continue to confront and address personal and societal problems.
But, let’s face it, there’s always something to whine about. If there’s no constructive effort to discuss a potential solution, I give people room to vent but then will likely ask, “Tell me something good.” (I adapted this line years ago from the movie Apollo 13. After an explosion rocked the capsule, alerts and alarms spewed at Mission Control and in space. Trying to get hold of an increasingly panicked situation, flight director Gene Kranz said, “What do we’ve got [sic] on the spacecraft that's good?”)
It’s often a heavy lift to pick up and place yourself onto a different track. Complaining is easy, generally satisfying, and attracts a crowd. Once re-railed, though, new opportunities can open. Happiness for another’s good news might overwhelm your schadenfreude. Smiles can replace frowns. Hope may supersede regret.
What passes for optimism, though, is largely in the eye of the pessimist. It might take a little or a lot, but it shouldn’t always have to take years and cost billions of dollars.
The New York Times article "Reasons for Optimism in 2023" recognizes that we’re in “a world facing many challenges” but proclaims “there are reasons to be hopeful about next year and beyond.” However, some of the reasons mentioned in the article are not exactly cheap or around the corner. Among the highlights listed include moving “a little closer” to nuclear fusion, advances in AI that “probably won’t take your job,” and “getting closer to cancer vaccines.”
That mislabeled article in the New York Times is not a prediction for breakthroughs in the next 12 months. It’s much better viewed through the lens of hopeful incrementalism.
We limit our happiness and our satisfaction if the only measure of success is a homerun or a touchdown.
We can enhance our lives exponentially if we remind ourselves that the little stuff matters—a lot.
We need to invest in the essential steps along the way to a larger goal and celebrate when each one is accomplished.
Politicians, business leaders, and our friends and loved ones should consider expanding their definition of what is good cause for optimism. Searching for optimism in 2023 and beyond could get a whole lot easier.
Paul Oestreicher, PhD, is a recognized expert in strategic communication, public affairs and issues, and crisis and reputation management. He is the author of Camelot, Inc.: Leadership and Management Insights from King Arthur and the Round Table and the blog C-O-I-N-S: Communication Opinions, Insights and New Strategies. Follow him on Twitter @pauloestreicher