What does it really mean to be optimistic? Some folks still believe in the glass half-full way of seeing life, but for me that is simply too, um, simple. What matters more is what is in the glass and what you do with it.
In my life, having optimism means having hope, based both in reality and maybe strawberry-rhubarb-pie-in-the-sky dreams, that even if you don’t get the desired outcome from your hard work, you will still have a worthy outcome, and your life will have benefitted from it in some way.
I love doing things that are hard for me. I love playing the piano, but it is not something that comes naturally or easily. I still love to do it because it challenges me mentally and physically. Even though I will probably not be a concert pianist, ever, playing the piano gives me hope and real-time evidence that I can create something beautiful even if it’s not perfect.
Trail running is similar. I’ll never be fast, and I probably won’t win anything. But that’s not why I run trails. I do it because it’s hard. Moving over mountains on difficult trails never fails to give me what I need in life—challenge, proof that I am a living, breathing, and vibrant human being, and a constant reminder that there is value in doing things that are difficult.
When you engage in difficult activities, it allows you find beauty in those very things. Not great at riding a bike? Keep trying! It will teach you to strive for balance in all areas of your life. Not great at public speaking? Keep trying, because it will improve your own thought process and ability to speak up, even when it’s difficult. Not great at cooking? Keep trying, because it will allow you to appreciate the subtle nuances of flavor and texture of what nourishes you.
The optimism here doesn’t always mean winning. It’s trying for the sake of trying, the sake of learning from the experience, and for the sake of focusing your hard efforts on using difficult situations to improve aspects of your life.
This is optimism.