You may find that you have been telling yourself that practicing optimism is a risk, as though, somehow, a positive attitude will invite disaster and so if you practice optimism it may increase your feelings of vulnerability. The trick is to increase your tolerance for vulnerable feelings, rather than avoid them altogether. [... ] Optimism does not mean continual happiness, glazed eyes and a fixed grin. When I talk about the desirability of optimism I do not mean that we should delude ourselves about reality. But practicing optimism does mean focusing more on the positive fall-out of an event than on the negative... I am not advocating the kind of optimism that means you blow all your savings on a horse running at a hundred to one; I am talking about being optimistic enough to sow some seeds in the hope that some of them will germinate and grow into flowers.
There are two types of optimism, real optimism and fake, cowardly optimism. Real optimism sees the Valley of Dry Bones and says, 'These bones will rise!' Fake, cowardly optimism says, 'I like these bones. Dry bones are so very artistic to look at.
No matter how bad things got, no matter how anxious the staff became, the commander had to 'preserve optimism in himself and in his command. Without confidence, enthusiasm and optimism in the command, victory is scarcely obtainable.' Eisenhower realized that 'optimism and pessimism are infectious and they spread more rapidly from the head downward than in any other direction.' He learned that a commander's optimism 'has a most extraordinary effect upon all with whom he comes in contact. With this clear realization, I firmly determined that my mannerisms and speech in public would always reflect the cheerful certainty of victory-that any pessimism and discouragement I might ever feel would be reserved for my pillow.
Optimism is a deadly vice of gigantic proportions lodged into the human psyche by Satan. It is the enemy of reality. We see a bad situation and optimism prevents us from extrapolating that. Instead we think, "Oh, it's bound to get better." So we plunge into the thicket, sure that it will thin, denied the aerial view that would show us the true, unacceptable horror of our lot. Perhaps optimism is good for prison escapees, who have no choice but to plod on. The rest of us are not well served. It poisons our judgment.
Being an idealist is not being a simpleton; without idealists there would be no optimism and without optimism there would be no courage to achieve advances that so-called realists would have you believe could never come to fruition.
If we define optimism broadly as the tendency to maintain a positive outlook, then realistic optimism is the tendency to maintain a positive outlook within the constraints of the available "measurable phenomena situated in the physical and social world" (DeGrandpre, 2000, p. 733). With respect to fuzzy meaning, realistic optimism involves enhancing and focusing on the favorable aspects of our experiences. Examples include being lenient in our evaluation of past events, actively appreciating the positive aspects of our current situation, and routinely emphasizing possible opportunities for the future. With respect to fuzzy knowledge, realistic optimism involves hoping, aspiring, and searching for positive experiences while acknowledging what we do not know and accepting what we cannot know.
The cycle of optimism and euphoria leading to greed, fear and capitulation, giving way to hope and building back to optimism, drives the expansion and contraction of our financial world in a market cycle of collective human emotion.
If we have any role at all, I think it's the role of optimism, not blind or stupid optimism, but the kind which is meaningful, one that is rather close to that notion of the world which is not perfect, but which can be improved. In other words, we don't just sit and hope that things will work out; we have a role to play to make that come about.
Optimism hopes for the best without any guarantee of its arriving and is often no more than whistling in the dark. Christian hope, by contrast, is faith looking ahead to the fulfillment of the promises of God, as when the Anglican burial service inters the corpse 'in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ.' Optimism is a wish without warrant; Christian hope is a certainty, guaranteed by God himself. Optimism reflects ignorance as to whether good things will ever actually come. Christian hope expresses knowledge that every day of his life, and every moment beyond it, the believer can say with truth, on the basis of God's own commitment, that the best is yet to come.
When our hopes for performance are not completely met, realistic optimism involves accepting what cannot now be changed, rather than condemning or second-guessing ourselves. Focusing on the successful aspects of performance (even when the success is modest) promotes positive affect, reduces self-doubt, and helps to maintain motivation (e.g., McFarland & Ross, 1982)... Nevertheless, realistic optimism does not include or imply expectations that things will improve on their own. Wishful thinking of this sort typically has no reliable supporting evidence. Instead, the opportunity-seeking component of realistic optimism motivates efforts to improve future performances on the basis of what has been learned from past performances.