“Pessimists have bad days and days that will soon be bad. Optimists have good days and days that are on the verge of good.” ~ me
Did you know there was an organization of and for optimists called Optimist International? And did you know they have a creed? I didn’t until my friend Joe Wilner turned me on to it back some time ago. Well, I decided to make a post of it today.
Each of the 10 provisions below has retained the creed’s original wording (with slight variation so each provision is self-contained) as provided by Optimist International. All the writing between creed provisions is mine.
The Optimist Creed
While I would have worded a few of the creed’s provisions differently had I been its author (go figure – no one came asking me to write it!), it is still a good declaration of basic beliefs and values many optimists share.
And since optimism is so central to happiness, I thought it worthy of some consideration … and a few hours at the keyboard.
So here goes …
Provision #1: Promise to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind
While it may be a little much to ask us to promise that nothing disturb our peace of mind (there are times when our minds should be disturbed if we are caring, compassionate people), still, there is a huge difference between being a thermostat and a thermometer.
A thermometer measures the temperature, indicating what is. A thermostat sets the temperature, creating what it will be. You can set the “temperature” of your own happiness by choosing a better way to respond to life’s trials and challenges. We can choose our emotional responses (and therefore our peace of mind) to life’s difficulties in the long run as we retrain our minds and hearts to automatically react with love and forgiveness and optimism and gratitude even when life sends us heat waves and snowstorms.
We can also retain our peace of mind by living our lives closer to our values, forgiving others their trespasses, overcoming tendencies to judgmentalism, by destressing and simplifying and decluttering our emotional and physical lives.
Provision #2: Promise to talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet
My daughter is particularly good at this. Whenever we would go shopping she would almost invariably notice something about the cashier (a pendant, a necklace, a shirt, hairstyle or ring) and say something complimentary about it. The cashier would inevitably be beaming as we paid and left.
She could have complained about the price or the wait or the temperature of the room. She never did. She saw something she liked and made mention of it and left the people around her feeling good.
We can both profoundly and more subtly influence others for good as well. We can speak of uplifting things and talk about ideas that matter, with the belief that others will come to embrace them simply because they matter.
It’s easy to moan and groan about life and spouse and kids and boss and the current state of political affairs or whatever. The list can go on indefinitely. The cultural atmosphere is already negatively charged with the nails-on-a-chalkboard buzz of whiny complaints, so one more will be but a drop in the already-overflowing bucket.
But optimists choose not to wade in the thick muck of that life-sucking stream. Instead, they choose what my daughter does: To see the good and make mention of it.
Provision #3: Promise to make all your friends feel that there is something in them
We have such power in the words we use, the way we communicate hope and encouragement and trust. We can do so much to make others feel important and valued, to help bandage the wounds of the past.
We can do so much to inspire the belief in others that they have something amazing inside them waiting to spring into the open air, ready to come to life and grow into something truly extraordinary. So look for that potential in others (it’s there even if deeply hidden) and inspire them to take action on those potentialities.
Too many people live so far below their potentials because they believe their potential isn’t much to brag about. Their average lives reflect the opinion they have that their potential isn’t much more than a notch or two above average. But there is something infinitely more than average buried deep in our souls, something profound and powerful and exciting and capable and amazing.
Tap into that inner quality and the world opens onto new vistas of possibility. Help others see that they too have that potential gurgling below the surface of their own self-doubt, and we can unleash a mighty power of creativity, goodness, happiness and love into the world.
Provision #4: Promise to look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true
Optimists are not blind to reality. They are not deaf to the cries of those in need. They do not pretend or ignore or walk around with their heads in clouds and fake-smile their way through life. Optimists see suffering and pain and misfortune like everyone else. But they don’t dwell on such things.
As a matter of fact, since optimists believe there are solutions to seemingly intractable problems, they are more likely to do something about all the suffering and pain in the world than their pessimist counterparts. And that’s the difference. Focusing on the sunny side of day does not require that we deny the existence of the dark side of night.
You can still focus your attention on a problem and keep your optimist credentials so long as your focus is not on the problem itself, but on possible ways of stopping it from remaining one.
The sunny side of a problem is its solution. That’s the sunny thing about it. It’s seeing opportunities in challenge and growth in trials. It’s seeing adversity as life’s gym, there to make you stronger.
Optimists are not unrealistic daydreamers, hoping and wishing their way through life. They go to work to actually turn trials into opportunities. Optimists add the sweat that primes the pump that starts the waters of opportunity flowing. They are the ones squeezing the snot out of life’s lemons to make the lemonade.
Provision #5: Promise to think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best
You won’t see many optimists setting goals for half-way up the mountain. (<– click to Tweet this)
Have you ever had a fish tank? As a kid, I never had much luck keeping fish alive. Too much chlorine, or too little oxygen in the tank. Too much food or too little. I never took the time to create the proper environment to keep the little critters alive for very long.
Our minds are like that too. Our dreams and goals and aspirations die in the liquid of negative thinking, pessimism and self-doubt. But they thrive and grow and multiply when we get the thinking part correct.
So fill your mind with the best thoughts and believe you are capable of reaching what you most hunger for in life. Positive thinking is important because it leads to taking positive action toward your goals. (<– Tweet this!)
Believe you can exercise power over your present set of circumstances. Reject the proposition that you’re stuck in the eternal rut of life. You’re not. So don’t act as though you believed it.
Think big and expect big, then go create big so you can live big. (<– Tweet this)
(P.S.: You choose how to define “big”)
Mediocrity as a creed, as a way of life, is a disease that poisons potential and happiness and possibility and peace of mind and even the common good. It’s perfectly okay to be okay at many things in our lives. Perhaps most. We simply don’t have time to excel at everything we do. But to have mediocrity as the underlying principle of your life is to sell yourself short and confine yourself to the dungeon of eternal what-ifs.
Provision #6: Promise to be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own
Those who have cultivated an optimistic attitude don’t see life as a zero-sum game. The goodies and blessings life offers are not ticking down to zero as others pick up their share. So optimists don’t believe that for every dollar someone else makes there’s one less for them.
Instead, optimists have an abundance mentality. They believe the pie is not only big enough for everyone, but that there truly is no pie. A slice of pie for one implies a smaller pie at the end of the day. Optimists don’t believe that.
Instead, be open to celebrate everyone’s successes, in part because you know you’re better off yourself for others’ achievements. There would be no space shuttle without the Wright Brothers’ earlier successes, after all. So celebrate others’ accomplishments as much as your own (or at least nearly so ).
The more others succeed, the more pervasive society will be infused with a culture of success. Then success will breed success and all people striving for excellence will be better positioned to create it.
My purpose here is not to put a self-interest twist to the creed’s provision, but to suggest that we also benefit as we seek and celebrate the good of others.
Provision #7: Promise to forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future
Have faith in the future. Focus your concentration on doing, on taking action, on becoming. Be so consumed by the ideal of action that you have little room left to dwell on the mistakes and regrets of the past.
Learn what lessons you can from history (yours and others), make whatever amends need to be made, then move forward with new commit.
See life by way of its potential more than its shortfalls; its possibility more than its reality; its opportunity more than its history. (<– Tweet this!)
Provision #8: Promise to wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile
While optimists cry too and mourn the loss of loved ones, they are nonetheless generally cheerful by definition. They believe there is something amazing inside each of us. They are solution-oriented, because they believe there are solutions to life’s challenges. They believe life’s adversities are instructive and that they fine-tune qualities not yet matured.
So why wouldn’t they be cheerful? Life is simply better lived as an optimist. Because they walk around with an attitudinal sense of gratitude, they can smile when things are good and smile when things haven’t quite yet gotten good … yet.
Provision #9: Promise to give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others
As said earlier, optimists don’t go around with their heads in the clouds. They see the moral warts and personality wrinkles in the mirror just like everyone else. But they believe they can be improved upon. And since they always shoot for the best, they work on their insides as a matter of course.
Because they recognize their own shortcomings, they are slow to spend too much time recognizing others’ weaknesses. After all, weakness is no more than an opportunity for more personal growth! (<– Tweet this!)
So what is there to criticize? More growth opportunities?
Still, you should never confuse criticism with correction. The use of criticism is the use of the breaks. The use of correction is the use of the steering wheel. Criticism is complaint and condemnation. Correction is redirection and encouragement. So stop condemning and start encouraging. The difference in outcome will be extraordinary.
Provision #10: Promise to be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble
Why worry when we can take action to minimize the likelihood of the thing being worried about? And if it’s something out of our control, what’s worrying going to do to help anyway? Optimists tend to do what can be done and leave the rest to work itself out. They are, after all, optimistic!
Anger is such a self- and relationship-destructive energy, especially the chronic variety. It’s filled with impatience and frustration and impotence. Anger, over time, sinks into the pit of the soul and cankers it. So optimists work to reduce it in both degree and frequency.
Since optimists already believe there are solutions to life’s problems, and that people are more than their actions, that they are also their potentials too, there is less in life to really get all that mad about anyway. We all live somewhere below our potentials so we’re really just talking about a matter of degrees. So why get all bent out of shape over a little more or a little less of what we do ourselves?
Fear stops us from stepping into the unknown. It limits our happiness because it prevents us from doing those things that build and improve happiness. It creates self-imposed barriers to excellence and therefore to living life the way it was meant to be lived.
But optimists already believe they can accomplish great things. All they need is the know-how, the desire and the direction. And so fear takes a back seat when an optimist is at the wheel.
Optimism is a fundamental principle of happiness. Optimistic people are happier than pessimists. Note the wording of this final provision. Note that it does not challenge us to deny the existence of trouble, only not to permit the presence of it.
In other words, optimists know trouble brews in the world and in the hearts and minds of too many people. But they don’t invite trouble over for dinner. They deny its presence. They see whatever trial they experience as a challenge to learn from or a test to master or a mountain to climb.
Trouble? Of course not—it’s just another opportunity to grow and become what we were meant to be: happy, strong, positive, decent.
And so there you have it. The Optimist Creed is powerful even if not what I would have written in every instance. But it is a worthy guide as we maneuver our way through life, making it something to get excited about.
Do you have a creed? What provisions would you add to this one? Which do you think should be revised or deleted? I would love to hear your response in the comments!
Photo by robwest