Optimism is nice, but Hope is the answer.
by Doyle Ranstrom on Apr 18, 2022
I have never been accused of being an optimist. I certainly have called a pessimist many times. For the record, I don't think I am either. In business, I am "a whatever can go wrong will go wrong" type of guy. I don't think that is being a pessimist or an optimist. I just think that is reality.
As we continue to go through one of the most challenging times in our country's history, I have been thinking a lot about optimism and hope. As outlined above, I am not a particularly optimistic person. But I am a hopeful one. And there is a difference.
When a person has an optimistic outlook based on certain information or expectations, when the outcome is not what the individual expects, optimism can change to pessimism very quickly. In fact, some research indicates that optimistic individuals often struggled the most during the pandemic as they waited for it to be over based on a certain set of expectations. When the expectations were not meant, optimism turned to pessimism. The reality is with new Covid variants, Covid is likely to be around for a long time. Also, some studies showing about 30% of those who had Covid, even those with mild cases, have become long-haulers. This is not pessimistic, or optimistic, it just is.
But that does not mean we do not have hope.
One quote about optimism and hope is from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks who said “Optimism and hope are not the same. Optimism is the belief that the world is changing for the better; hope is the belief that, together, we can make the world better.”
An optimistic can look at all the world's problems, thinks it will be get better, and is not worried. A pessimist can look at the same problems and think, we're screwed, it will not get better and there is no point in worrying or doing anything about it. But an individual with hope believes the problems, whatever they are, can be addressed and solved. The world will be better tomorrow than it is today.
When my first grandchild was born, she was amazing. The next three grandchildren are equally amazing. Every grandparent feels the same way. If you are ever at a gathering of grandparents, you will notice that they are all taking turns waiting politely to about their grandchildren. [Sometimes not so politely.] I am often the worst of the group. I have been know to start my turn early and go way past my allotted time.
When the first grandchild was born, the optimistic side of me [there is one, its just very small] said don't worry about US and global issues. They will all work out. Go enjoy this new phase of life. The pessimistic side said "your a little bald guy, no one cares, there is nothing you can do anyway". [By the way, I hate it when my inner voice calls me a little bald guy.]. But the hopeful part of me won out and I realized my primary purpose in life going forward was to be an advocate for her until she, then later on her sister and cousins, could become their own advocates. I have now changed a bit more, I will continue to be their advocate as long as I am around, regardless of their age..
I do so understanding hope is not passive, it is active.
A couple of years ago when I put together my "Long-Term Trends" presentation, I talked about various trends which are taking place right now which I believe will affect all of our financial futures including if not especially our children and grandchildren. In researching the trends and the problems they are causing, I also realized there are solutions. These solutions are not easy, but they provide me with great hope.
In a very real way, I started my little consulting company in part to provide a fee-only financial planning option of course, but also in part so I could write and talk about issues or problems I believe we need to address. Today, not tomorrow.
Though I suspect I come across pessimistic at times, the reality is I have a great amount of hope for the future. I will continue to write about issues which I believe we need to address, with great concern at times, but always with hope.
I also find inspiration in the following two quotes.
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it — always.” Mahatma Gandhi
“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness". Howard Zinn