You might remember Ronald Regan’s favorite joke, one he shared hundreds of times. I’ll just give you a quick recap of that delightful tale to refresh some memories and educate others who have never heard the story before. However, I’ll have more to say about optimism later.
The yarn involves twin brothers (age five or six) with one being a total pessimist and the other a total optimist. The worried parents took the boys to a psychiatrist since they were concerned the twins had developed extreme personalities.
The doctor treated the young pessimist first. Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took the young boy into a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys. But instead of being delighted, the little boy burst into tears. “What’s the matter?” the baffled psychiatrist asked. “Don’t you want to play with any of the toys?’ ‘Yes,’ the little boy bawled, ‘but if I did, I’d only break them.”
Next the psychiatrist treated the remaining twin, the optimist. Trying to dampen this little boy’s outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of running away in disgust, the little optimist squealed in delight and clamored to the top of the pile. Dropping to his knees, the youngster began eagerly scooping and scooping with his bare hands. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ the psychiatrist asked, again as totally baffled as he had been by the first twin. ‘With all this manure,’ the beaming boy replied, ‘there must be a pony in here somewhere!”
A cute tale and beautiful tribute to the eternal optimists among us. The story still begs the question, how does one person end up a pessimist and another an optimist? Is it something that comes with living through a particularly challenging life or is it a learned trait or habit that can be changed anytime we wish? Optimism and pessimism are always a matter of whether you see the glass half empty or half full. Unquestionably, it’s a matter of perspective.
In this blog, I hope to illustrate how faced with an undeniable rationale, maybe a pessimist can begin to question his or her negative position. So, I’ll share a couple examples that might begin to put a crack in the negative façade some people have established.
In the face of insurmountable challenges, perceived tragedies and losses from which we believe we’ll never recover—there is always something positive to come from every one of them. You might not believe me but any number of messages in SOULS OF LEGENDS SPEAK attest to that fact. Again, if in doubt, just open your eyes and look around at the lives of others or even reflect on situations in your own life. When your life or your destiny evolved, perhaps there were shifts from a bad situation to something much, much better.
For example, living through a painful divorce might have seemed like the end of the world yet in hindsight, that one event may have opened the door to a blissful relationship many years later which brought immeasurable joy to the balance of your life. Or, perhaps, you once worked in the job-from-hell, dreading every day that you were there—until you built up the courage to eventually quit. That episode in your life made you much stronger in the end—propelled you to start your own business. Are you beginning to get the picture? As time passes, we all gain a better perspective.
Although hindsight isn’t always 20/20 in this life, on the “other side” it is 100/100. The fact is we mere mortals never know the whole story. We never have enough objectivity or a clear enough point of view—to know how everything will end up—nor do we immediately grasp the purpose for bad things that happen in the first place. What appears to be a tragedy, after a little while can end up being a gift as divulged by one of my favorite stories. The one about the Zen master and the little boy.
In that story, the village gets excited when a young boy gets a horse, but the Zen master merely says, “…We’ll see.” Then, when the young boy falls off the horse and badly damages his leg, the villagers react emotionally crying about how tragic the event was. Yet, the Zen master again says, “…We’ll see.” Finally, when a war breaks out among local villages and everyone is called to war—except the young boy with the messed up leg—the villagers are again thrilled, but the Zen master once more says, “….We’ll see.
Sometimes life just evolves and corrections take place that turn negatives into positives. We must wait a while to render judgment—and have a little faith. Faith might be the missing link, in fact. Faith doesn’t mean some divine being handling the situation—instead, it just might be the belief that life is full of surprises and sometimes the surprises are good.
If you are still confused about how a pessimist might shift gears and begin to see things differently, let’s step into the divine realm to remind ourselves of something our souls have always known. Our souls continually seek perfection and yearn to become purer in love. So, if we’d like to get a leg up on that mastery process while we’re still living on earth, we might educate ourselves more about love and its opposite, fear. We can use the optimist and the pessimist as the perfect examples.
The first twin, the pessimist, was totally fear-based evident by the emotions he displayed: despair, insecurity, doubt, remorse, dread, distress, apprehension, anxiety, doubt, guilt, panic, and shame. Those are just a small portion of emotions born out of grief, apathy, uncertainty, abandonment, horror and anger—all rooted in fear. Fear and love are mutually exclusive, so if you live in one, you cannot live in the other. Pessimism is based on fear.
The antheses of that is what the other twin expressed was the little optimistic twin. Of course, his approach to the problem was a little messy but this attitude was a far better one in approaching life. To become more proficient in the love-based emotions, let’s look at a few emotions that little boy expressed: joy, delight, confidence, excitement, euphoria, surprise, amazement, expectation, and gratitude, among others. Optimism is a wonderful love-based emotion that includes hope and faith.
I don’t know about you, but I think living with optimism seems like much more fun. So, if your life today looks like a pile of crap— it can’t stay that way forever. Set your sights ahead and sharpen your focus. Become more grateful for the good things you can identify in your life (yes, there are plenty of those if you just acknowledge them) and you might also see a treasure buried in that crappy life of yours!
Maybe it’s the pony!