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.
A wife who loses a husband is called a widow. A husband who loses a wife is called a widower. A child who loses his parents is called an orphan. There is no word for a parent who loses a child. That's how awful the loss is.
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.