Please see below selected recent optimism-related change.
- Psyche cautioned that it’s a challenging time to be an optimist. Climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying. The threat of nuclear war is more complex and unpredictable than ever. Authoritarianism is resurgent. And these dangers were present even before we were beset by a historic pandemic. Nevertheless, in a 2016 piece for Wired magazine, Barack Obama wrote (with characteristic optimism): ‘[T]he truth is, if you had to choose any time in the course of human history to be alive, you’d choose this one. Right here in America, right now.’ The following year, in his book C’était mieux avant! (‘It was better before!’), the French philosopher Michel Serres lauded the successes of science and reason while playfully mocking our tendency to view the past through the rose-tinted and selective lenses of nostalgia.
- A scientist, and professor at the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Texas A&M University led a project, that grew out of decades of research and that showed that expectations matter for people and that, on the whole, people are often overly optimistic. Many people remain optimistic even when it is made clear to them that there is no rational basis for their optimism and even in the face of negative feedback or previous failures.
- For futurist Kevin Kelly, civilisation depends on an implicit degree of general optimism. It is a collaborative exercise. Civilisation amplifies and accumulates cooperation between strangers. If you expect that you can trust a stranger, that is optimism. If you expect to be cheated or hurt, that is pessimism. Societies that bring the most good to the most people, require that people be trusted more than they are distrusted; that they expect more good than harm; they require that people in general have more hope than fear.
- For The School of Life, a major source of agitation is, strange as it might at first sound, optimism. The expectation that things will go well creates anxiety because, at some level, we know that we can’t quite count on our hopes coming to fruition. And of course, as things turn out, quite often they don’t. We are on tenterhooks – and we suffer. To restore calm we need to become strategically pessimistic. That is, to spend more time getting used to the very real possibility that things will work out rather badly. A lot of good projects fail, most things go wrong, at least half our dreams won’t work out. Pessimism dampens unhelpful and impatient expectations.
- HBR cautioned that these are trying times for optimists. Covid deaths remain high. Job growth remains low. Many people are “hitting the pandemic wall.” A front-page article in the Wall Street Journal, which has chronicled the Covid-driven struggles of companies and universities, highlighted a crisis at a different but related kind of organisation — Optimist International, a 110-year-old club with chapters around the world. Membership is now at 60,000, down from a high of 190,000, although club leaders remain true to their guiding spirit. “When you hit rock bottom, the only direction you can go is up,” said one chapter head, who declared she was “getting my optimistic groove back”.
- A 2020 survey study found that most people believed that they were less at risk of contracting COVID-19 than the statistical average for their age or gender. Over the past decade there has been a glut of research informing us about the benefits of optimism: better cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety levels, and better overall mental as well as physical health, but,it turns out, expecting the best outcomes for ourselves isn't ideal for a society that needs to halt the exponential spread of a deadly virus.
- The leader of Tibetan Buddhism sees reasons for optimism even in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. People are helping one another, the Dalai Lama told the BBC. And if seven billion people on Earth develop "a sense of oneness", he said, they may also unite to solve the problem of climate change. The important thing, the spiritual leader says, is to recognise that we are not individuals alone, we depend on the community we are a part of."In the past there was too much emphasis on my continent, my nation, my religion. Now that thinking is out of date."
- When there is negative news everywhere and unprecedented financial and logistical challenges facing so many companies, it can be tough to advise people to stay positive. Many leaders we worry, especially during the global pandemic, that trying to emphasise positivity and happiness will make them look out of touch - and rather than helping their people, it will backfire. The findings from the Harvard Business Review's multi-year research project at a hospital system in Iowa in the US indicate quite the opposite, however. It’s precisely in the midst of a setback or challenging time, that leaders should be actively encouraging positivity because it will help teams weather the storm.
- During a crisis, business leaders can underestimate how much their employees look to them for information. To address these needs, leaders should act with deliberate calm and bounded optimism. Those who can visibly demonstrate these qualities help their organisations feel a sense of purpose, giving them hope that they can face the challenges ahead. Optimism that springs from authentic values and trust in people’s capabilities can be the source of energy for everyone in the organisation to move forward. By contrast, optimism without meaning or grounding may lead to disappointment and defeat. Leaders with "bounded" optimism practice what McKinsey calls “meaning making.” Meaning helps everyone remember that difficult times and long hours of work serve a purpose.
- People are often overly optimistic that the things we want to happen will actually happen. We erroneously base our predictions on our past experiences. When we get new information, we often think it fits into what we already believe to be true. We notice immediate things but not when they happen gradually, especially over the course of generations.
- In Optimistic Workers Can Guide Companies into the Future, BCG found that at a time when discussions about the future of work are dominated by reports of widespread fear, we found that middle-skills workers see opportunity in changes and are optimistic for their future job prospects. Globally, 52% of middle-skills workers indicated that they are happy in their current jobs, and 45% said that their employment situation has improved in the past five years. Moreover, they believe that the forces shaping the future, including new technology, will have a positive effect. Nearly half of workers globally (45%) believe that changes in the workplace will result in higher wages, and 61% are optimistic about the impact of technology on their futures.
- Negativity bias means that, as human beings, we experience “bad” events more intensely than we do the “good” - and we also remember them more. So we have to work hard to remain hopeful - or we can’t make things better. Yet optimism isn’t frivolous: it’s necessary, argued The Guardian, because if we feel hopeless all the time, if we’re always in crisis, the natural response is to give up and stop trying altogether. Understanding how other cultures approach life’s trials and joys may help us achieve contentment.
- Optimism is needed to help fight climate change, argued Quartz. People think that protecting the environment is so costly or difficult that they simply ignore or deny the problem.
- Today, argues HumanProgress, progress has been so consistent that it can seem inevitable. Whether it's new pharmaceuticals, better iPhones or cheaper holidays, people expect things to get better. But that was not always the case. In the past, people usually expected things to get worse.
- However, Quartz cautioned that the risk of optimism is forgetting our failures. At the 2018 UN General Assembly, representatives from the European Union, the World Bank, and the UN ke a looked at what worked - and what didn’t - over the past 10 years of rebuilding after crises around the world.
- While most people already know that we live longer and earn higher incomes than our ancestors, many people fail to appreciate that the story of human progress is truly multidimensional, increases in charitable contributions, improved communications, improving business environment and economic freedom, better access to education and cheap energy, a cleaner environment, more food, greater gender equality, improved governance (on average), better health, improved housing, an overall rise in human freedom, progress in labour (fewer work hours and fewer on-the-job injuries), more leisure time, falling prices of most natural resources, increased tourism, cheaper and safer transportation and declining violence.