Last night, as I was getting ready for bed, I happened to stumble upon the most recent Time Magazine, which features a cover article about whether or not optimism is a genetic trait. After flipping through the magazine, I was struck by The Optimism Bias and how much people tend to not think about the genetic value of their thoughts. I’ve always been a glass-half-full type of person. Even as a child, I remember being described by adjectives such as “sunny” or “bubbly,” something that I feel has followed me throughout my life as a model of what I aspire to be: free of doubt and full of dreams. However, despite these reminders, I had never realized that the strong hope and open-mindedness I possessed for life might be part of my core being.
In my continual thoughts on this topic on the train and subsequent subway ride over here, I looked around at my fellow passengers and saw many grim expressions among the crowd. It might be because it was early in the morning (completely understandable!), but there did not seem to be an air of optimism about the day in the sea of faces, despite the new beginning that happened with the sun rising. While there are definitely factors such as stress and the time of day that contributed to my observations, I still could not help thinking that a bit of laughter or smiles might have improved the moods of the passengers, thus adding an air of friendliness to the morning commute. While friendliness and optimism do not necessarily correlate, the art of smiling and expressing upbeat emotions can definitely contribute to one’s self-esteem and internal optimism. I recently spent a few short months in Europe and noticed a more open air of communication that seemed to point toward a culture more focused on sharing their internal selves, which may or may not be predisposed to “rose-colored glasses.”
Part of the reason I have been examining optimism in the world around me and in my own life is because of the Time Magazine article, as well as a review of an upcoming book called My Year With Eleanor which explores some of the same ideas, but with a twist. The author of this memoir, Noelle Hancock, was stuck in a rut in her late 20′s when she came upon a quote by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in a coffee shop which said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” A lightbulb went off in her head at that moment and Noelle from then on was on a mission to add one thing that she was scared to do to every subsequent day, including public speaking and even swimming with sharks. This inspired the optimistic, glass-half-full part of me because even in her late 20′s, when most of us have formed a set identity, she chose to make significant changes to who she had become. The idea that life is a canvas, something that can be constantly added to and tweaked is an interesting way to look at the path that one is on, since it can be constantly rerouted and in transition. Optimism is important to note from this upcoming memoir because while Noelle might just have forward-thinking in her blood, there was also a sense that she took charge of her life because she knew in her heart that she had more courage than was normally displayed. Through looking at her life as an open-book, full of numerous possibilities, she found the optimism that comes with securing one’s future in hopes and dreams in a healthy way, which is definitely inspiring for every day life!
While thinking about optimism, it’s important to be reminded that life may throw hurdles at you and there will always be challenges, but by thinking of life as continually changing an evolving, there is always a bright side that you’re yet to explore! Thinking back to The Optimism Bias and Noelle Hancock’s upcoming memoir (look for it starting June 7th!), you might have a genetic “bias” toward the sunny side of life, but as well, you might just have to dig deeper into yourself to discover the inner quotes that define the way you live your life. As with the yin and yang, with the good comes the bad – with the difficulties comes the inspiration to will yourself with change and optimism.