In the Midst of this Financial Mess, is it Possible to remain Optimistic? Part I
PM00000050000000031 3, 2008 by Raul Rojas
“When the night is darker, we can see the stars better”
Charles A. Beard
The United States is experiencing one of the most severe financial crises in its recent history. For the past few week the stock market has been about to collapse, thousands of people are losing their jobs, and a feeling of anxiety and uncertainty is taking over people in the U.S. and in the whole world. In the midst of this terrible situation, are there reasons to be optimistic?
My answer to this is an empathic “Yes”. Let me explain!
The current situation brings back my childhood memories, growing up in one of the poorest barrios in Mexico City, and the image of my father, a recalcitrant optimistic. During the many times of uncertainty and financial crises that impacted my family, my dad always used to say: “Son do not worry; remember “ Al Mal tiempo Siempre hay que Ponerle Buena Cara” – ( Face adversity with a positive attitude and courage) and “Despues de la Tempestad Vendra la Calma” ” ( right after the storm there is calm). Wise words, but difficult for me to swallow. Nevertheless, at the time, they gave me the strength and hope necessary to overcome those terrible moments. Eventually, the situation improved, the sun rose again, and a sense of calm and relief reappeared in our lives. My father was right!
My dad had the gift of using sayings rooted in the Latino culture and tradition to teach us about life. These sayings are simple words with a profound wisdom and hopeful message: in times of great adversity it is very important to remain calm, look at things objectively, learn the lessons, and plan for the future.
Now on days, the science of psychology is validating the profound value and wisdom of the sayings that my father used to say. Recent studies are re-affirming the value of some sayings and proverbs of the Latino culture, and the powerful message of hope, optimism that they transmit.
Now that we know the benefits of being optimistic in this troubled times. The question is: How can we develop an optimistic mindset? To answer this question, lets “observe” how an optimistic person thinks:
When facing adversities, an optimist thinks about the situation as follows:
1. “See the glass half full “. That is, sees the potential positive side of negative situations.
2. “Learn from the situation” That is, sees the adversity as an opportunity for personal growth.
3. “Have faith in the future” That is deeply believes that the crisis is only temporary.
Does this mean an optimist covers his/her eyes or denies the existence of the problem? The answer is no, it is quite the contrary.
Being optimistic does not mean “seeing the life rosy,” or denying the existence of the problem, but to accept the seriousness of the circumstances, but without being dragged into it by the emotional turbulence of the moment.
An optimistic person assess the severity of the situation, and thinks of possible solutions, makes the necessary changes and adjustments to prepare for possible similar situations that may occur in the future.
In the case of the current financial crisis, an optimist will be aware of the potential risk of losing his job and financial assets, but without going into a panic. He will do everything possible to protecting maintaining his job, and will use his money wisely.
Also, an optimist person, if deemed appropriate, will vent his/her frustration and anger at the institutions that have caused the crisis; he/she perhaps, will write to their government representative asking to them to take actions to remedy the current situation and to prevent this kind of financial crises from happening in the future.
This positive mindset gives an optimist the strength, vision and hope, to confront the adversities of life.However, is being optimist an inborn capacity? Or is it learned? And furthermore, are there any scientifically proven methods to cultivate an optimistic mindset?
The short answer is that optimism like any other habits of thinking can be learned and develop. And for the next four blog entries will teach you some techniques and strategies that your can use to cultivate and strengthen an optimistic mindset.
Authentic happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to realize your potential and sustainable happiness. Martin EP Seligman, Ph.D., Simon and Schuster, 2002