With a pandemic running rampant and political turmoil at every turn, these are indeed difficult and uncertain times. The future is an unsettling unknown. Interestingly, research reveals that it in times like these people become either pessimistic or optimistic (Rigotti, et al., 2011).
Pessimists recognize that we have lost a great many things we happily took for granted—jobs, socializing, travel, restaurants, collective worship, gyms. To the pessimist, it does not appear that life as we knew it will return anytime soon, if ever. And what ‘will be’ brings unwanted change, adjustment, and sacrifice. In tough times, pessimists are more inclined to look back and cling to remnants of the past. They seek and hold dear the familiar, comfortable and predictable in work and life, rejecting the new and different.
Optimists, in contrast, see uncertain times ripe with possibilities and they want to be part of the transformation. Consequently, they seek new opportunities in both personal and business enterprises. Imagination and innovation rule their thinking. The optimist recognizes this is a time to learn new skills, acquire fresh knowledge, and experience new adventures. Where the pessimist is stuck in ‘survival mode’, the optimist is in ‘growth mode.’
Between the two, it is the optimist who emerges from times like this with, not only a healthy, happy attitude, but tangible options for navigating what the future may offer. There will come a time when a virus vaccine is discovered, the political divisiveness abates and the economy regains strength. And when all of those things come to pass, the optimistic will have already sown the seeds for personal and professional prosperity. This is the time to be optimistic.
Rigotti, L., Ryan, M., & Vaithianathan, R. (2011). Optimism and firm formation. Economic Theory, 46(1), 1–38.