What is Optimism?

We ask "what makes you optimistic?"

by Victor Perton, Author of Optimism: The How and Why?

One of the oldest expressions of optimism came from the middle-ages English anchorite Mother Julian of Norwich who wrote "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."

Worth Reading: "All Shall be Well"

At its simplest, optimism is an expectation that good things will happen and that things will work out in the end.

The American Heart Association Scientific Statement 2021 used the working definition, "Optimism is characterized by having a sense of hopefulness and confidence that things will work out well in the future and anticipating the best possible outcomes."

Researchers from Boston and Harvard found that individuals with greater optimism are more likely to live longer and to achieve “exceptional longevity,” that is, living to age 85 or older.   Their definition, "Optimism refers to a general expectation that good things will happen or believing that the future will be favourable because we can control important outcomes."

Monash University's Dr Heather Craig and her fellow researchers recently wrote, "Optimism, broadly speaking, refers to an individual's hopefulness and or their belief that something positive or desirable will happen– ‘anticipating good’, and having a positive view of the past, whilst a pessimist expects the worst."

Asking people what makes them optimistic, we have had many interesting answers as to what optimism means to them.

Our favourites?

Professor Jee Hyun Kim told us, "Optimism is the evidence for the dreams yet to be realised.

Marija Dremaite of Vilnius University shared her view, “Optimism is a state of mind. It is an outlook - an expression of faith and hope that the outcome of one’s efforts will be both positive and desirable."

Anna-Marie Southern of World Commerce and Contracting said to us, "Optimism is a gift; one which we are able to give to ourselves. I think it is the root of aspiration, and therefore movement and growth.”

Lydia Dishman, Journalist

Optimism is our best chance to be alive instead of just live.”

Joanne Butterworth-Gray GAICD, Chairperson, Southern Rural Water

"Optimism is the exquisite taste of the first white peach of the season; it is the trust with which your grandson takes your hand; the acceptance of your destiny and your place in a world that is much bigger than you; and mostly, optimism is living and being the person you are meant to be."

Benjamin Zander, Conductor

"Optimism is a discipline. It’s not just a good feeling. That’s something else, and people get very confused about it. To be optimistic is always to look on the bright side, as they say. I consider optimism to be a very rigorous discipline. It’s the discipline of distinguishing between the language that we use which pulls us down and the language we use which creates a new opening, a new awareness, and a new set of options and possibilities. It’s a discipline that we all can master, but few of us do master it."

Deepak Chopra MD in "The Victory of Hope over Uncertainty"

"Optimism is the attitude that life can take care of itself. It is grounded in the knowledge that each of us has a place in the grand scheme of things and is valued for who we are. You can’t turn to outside events to discover this level of trust, because outside events always foster uncertainty. The world’s wisdom traditions teach that time will always bring a mixture of pleasure and pain. But at the core of the self is your essence, which is timeless. This essence is unshakable, and because it is imbued with peace and joy, optimism naturally flows from this deeper level of the self."

Renae Okao , "Designer with a Difference"

"Optimism is believing in the potential that has not yet bloomed."

Robert Mallick

"I am optimistic because optimism and hope is my state of mind not a state of the world."

Attila Burjan, Australian Productivity Council

"Optimism is a choice of will and hope, rather than a reaction to the world".

Sally McArthur, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Swinburne University of Technology

"Optimism is identifying a challenge and building a community to explore it with you, knowing that a diversity of ideas, know how and people will always create energy, insights and a whole range of solutions you could never envisage by yourself."

Murli Thadani, Kiroyan Partners, Jakarta, Indonesia

“Optimism and positive energy are the platforms by which our lives are fruitfully enriched when sensibly channelised.”

Balys Stankunavicius

"In a dramatically changing world, optimism is a tonic to strengthen our challenge to contribute and construct."

Renae Okao, "Designer with a Difference"

"Optimism is believing in the potential that has not yet bloomed."

Michael Thomas Sunnarborg, Transformation Coach and Relentless Optimist

“Optimism is a lifestyle and a daily choice. Choose wisely.”

Deepika Chopra, PsyD

“The true definition of an optimist is someone that is very aware and mindful of all the setbacks and roadblocks and less-than-ideal things that happen in their life.  The caveat is that they are just aware that those things are temporary, and they have the ability to overcome them.”


Akaash Maharaj, CEO of the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption

“Optimism is a creed for the brave. Pessimists' and cynics' certainty that nothing can be done gives them a ready excuse to do nothing and to risk nothing. By contrast, the optimist knows that better is always possible, and so he is compelled to make the effort work towards happier ends, even at the risk of disappointment.” 

Lynette Mayne AM, co-chair, b team Australasia

Optimism is life itself – it inspires and helps us to be innovative and passionate. It creates the drive to do amazing things, to always raise the bar.  Quite frankly, what would we do without it?”

Renée Giarrusso

"Optimism is the energy and fuel to us living our best lives and being our best selves!"

(Watch Optimism and the Gift Mindset: Renée Giarrusso in Conversation)

Maureen Metcalf, Founder & CEO Metcalf & Associates, Author, Radio Host

“Optimism is the fuel that powers our vision and aspirations. The combination of worth vision, passion and optimism make almost anything possible. During challenging times, by surrounding ourselves with people who possess this combination we will find joy in the struggles and create a positive outcome, even if not what was originally planned.”

Julie Zaruba Fountaine, Wellness Coordinator at The College of St. Scholastica.

"An optimistic view of the world around me has given me a greater sense of wellbeing. Optimism does not mean ignoring the challenges in the world. Instead, it means finding ways to grow and learn from the challenges we face."


Victoria Ngo, Head of Insights & Analytics at Vanguard Australia.

"Optimism isn’t a frame of mind but a behaviour. It’s hope meets actiontakers . I am optimistic that no matter what, we have the power to show up that way for each other."

Peter Adamis, Writer

"During the journey of life, we travel along many paths, some not of our choosing. Therefore we need a companion to guide us when entering uncharted and alien walks of life. That companion is based on faith in one's self which we call optimism.

"Optimism dispels ignorance and fear, and as such, hope never leaves Pandora's Box, and the world remains a beautiful place.

"Optimism is, therefore, a positive driver in the midst of chaos and panic. Never one to waver or be influenced by negative elements of mind and matter. It remains constant and positive as it journeys through the numerous challenges of life."


Joseph Ghaly, Leadership Coach

“Optimism is that quiet voice in our head reminding us that we are on track toward our goals. It is a refreshing consciousness that everything is going to be alright. Optimism is a state of mind and a choice. It is my choice of mindset. Is it yours? Wherever you are enroute towards your goals, whichever stop or traffic light, take a moment to be conscious of your aim. This should be an enlightening experience, refreshing your optimism about your personal motivation and original game plan. It does take energy and effort to turn on the positive or optimistic switch in our brain. That effort is well rewarded with a happier and more motivated self. And greater attraction to the people and resources who are naturally aligned with our values. Have the guts to go for it and be optimistic!”

Obi Kaufmann

"optimism is, by my working definition, the process of engaging the facts with eyes wide open.”

"Cynicism is an abdication of one’s social responsibilities. It’s a luxury and an indulgence, a privilege.  There’s no choice but to be optimistic. But that being said, there is this really important edge to walk on, which is that a lot of people, when they hear optimism, they think idealism. They’re thinking I’m not actually facing the facts—when in fact optimism is, by my working definition, the process of engaging the facts with eyes wide open.”

Ross Dawson, Futurist, Keynote Speaker and Author

"The ONLY way we can create a better future for ourselves, our community, our organisations and humanity is to be optimistic. Optimism is absolutely not believing blindly that things will get better on their own. Optimism is believing that it is possible to create a better tomorrow if we do the right things today. Unless we have that belief we will simply give up. Only with optimism do we have a real chance of creating an amazing future for humanity."



Paul Oestreicher, PhD

"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."

(Read Searching for Optimism in 2023 By Paul Oestreicher)




Dr Jane Addis, Mayor of the City of Boroondara and Psychologist

"For me, optimism is related to a positive mindset and this comes from several factors, including:

  • Gratitude – noticing and focusing on the good
  • Realistic goals and expectations – of self and others
  • Having a sense of purpose and doing things that allow me to use my talents
  • Trying to distinguish what really matters from day-to-day inconveniences
  • Distinguishing needs from wants
  • Remembering that I do not always get what I want. 

Scott W. Atlas, MD

“Optimism is not simply a belief, its power is founded in knowledge and evidence.”

Joel Vernier

"Optimism is intuitively knowing that positive thoughts and actions transform our lives to a higher level!"

"What makes me optimistic is believing in the fact that what happens, happens for the best. We may not see it now, especially during tough times, but I know for a fact that the dots always connect backward. So optimism, to me, is about following your heart and hoping for the best."

Ayse Birsel in "Design the Long Life You Love, A Step-by-Step Guide to Love, Purpose, WellBeing, and Friendship."

"Are you optimistic? Do you have empathy for other people? Do you like having a bird’s-eye view of things? Do you often use the words what if? Do you enjoy collaborating with others? If so, you’re already thinking like a designer. Optimism—the belief that we will find a better solution no matter how hard the problem—fuels our energy, calms our fears, and propels us forward."

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