I believe optimism is something many people underestimate. It can actually be a powerful tool and one we need to take hold of when accomplishing anything in life. By simply thinking about the outcome you desire, the chances of actually achieving it our greatly increased. Or in Gandhi’s words, “man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”
I recently read two books that demonstrate this point, or at least they give me hope that almost anything is possible when your mind is in the right place. Both are worthy reads.
Unbroken is about an Olympic hopeful, Louis Zamperini, who ends up lost at sea after his B-25 bomber was shot down in the Pacific. After staying alive at sea for 47 days, he drifts to and island and ends up in a Japanese POW camp for more than two years. He was subject to not only physical torture but also mental torture. How did he stay alive through all this? His body had withered away and all he had left was his mind to stay alive. The key attribute in his survival was optimism.
Steven Callahan survived 76 days at sea while floating across the Atlantic and documented his encounter in the book Adrift. He faces all types of hardships– starving, dehydration, fish attacking him, boats bypassing him, and his life raft being punctured and sinking around him. Through everything he encountered, he did not give in, but continued on and even did yoga daily to keep his mind fresh. He told himself, “I can handle this. Compared to what others have been through, I’m fortunate. I tell myself these things over and over, building up fortitude….” When I read this I thought, wow, this guy survived in some of the most extreme circumstances, using all his physical and mental strength…..certainly, we can accomplish our goal.
Looking at my own personal experiences, I think about optimism as it relates to giving birth to my two girls. My goal was to have them naturally with no pain medication. I encountered many people who told me I was crazy and I would change my mind once in labor. I achieved both births naturally—no meds. The first being 22 hours and physically draining and the 2nd birth was to an almost 10 lb baby! I did not allow myself to think of any other way but the path to my goal. I remained positive and blocked out all the negative thoughts of pain and the negative comments from others. And took each contraction minute by minute, focusing on what I wanted to achieve. I also had a plan in place as to how I would accomplish this goal and prepared myself with mental exercises (hypnobirthing).
The point being, the power of setting a goal and believing you can reach the goal is the biggest factor in determining if you will achieve it. However, you must also have a plan; there is such thing as blind optimism!
In this life venture we are undertaking, we have to stay optimistic! Right now many things are very unclear as to how we will reach our goal of setting sail with our two little girls three years from now. However, I’m a firm believer that if we keep a strong course towards our goal, we will accomplish it. The next step will be putting all the little pieces in place (or acquiring the capacity) and there are many little pieces that need to be addressed….