Optimism and Resilience: how to achieve Realistic Confidence in the face of Crisis

updated June 2017

We’ve just made our own blog a lot more ‘resilient’ by switching to WordPress hence the delay in putting new articles up. Sorry, but I’m sure you understand and thanks for coming back to share with me more on the topic.

In my last post I wrote about the importance of open public discussions about climate change. Importantly, how our own strong emotions, including pain and fear affect what and how we talk to each another. Such discussions are initially quite polarised or ‘raw’ in the sense that they reflect strong feelings that need to be witnessed in the right context without being misunderstood. Those that put a positive spin on their comments trying to lift the paralyzing gloom and doom are often yelled down by accusations of being blind or worse, being idiots, lazy and apathetic. This of course does not help either.

Finding the right kind of optimism is the real challenge here. Optimism is not just one thing. It is complex and means different things to different people. Optimism is interesting because it comes in different flavours and shades. Contrary to popular belief, ‘resilient’ optimists do not view the world simply through rose-tinted-glasses. Resilient optimists acquire a certain kind or flavour of ‘realistic optimism’ that is just right – the ‘magic’ Goldilocks principle: just right.

To successfully deal with any crisis, realistic optimism serves as the fuel that ignites resilience, providing the very energy so sorely needed to deal with it all, physically, mentally and emotionally. Crises are long and difficult processes and something we all have to learn to cope with at some point in our lives – especially now as we are waking up to an ever more challenging world; one, where we must prepare for a world that’s more than 2° C warmer.

So, how can we become resilient optimists?

First, we need to know the difference. Psychologist Sandra Schneiderexplains that blind optimism is different from realistic optimism in that the blind variety focuses on simply feeling good in the now while the realistic approach takes a wider view with a problem solving stance which goes on to improving our chances to negotiate our changing environments successfully. Does that mean both are mutually exclusive, we have to choose between realist or optimist? Not necessarily – the good news is that there is a way of having both! Desired beliefs are a tremendous force we can harness despite them being a form of self-deception so long as we don’t get lost or distracted by them and have timely, appropriate reality checks in place – which is of course easier said than done! What works for me might not necessarily work for you. Everyone must develop their own brand of optimism and that is hard work and requires a lot of self-reflection as well as the capacity to imagine different kinds of shared futures.

Read that last sentence again. There! That is exactly where the real power lies in my view and it is rooted in the now. Now – as in literally right now – this power is yours. Agreed, now I’m beginning to sound a bit like Yoda but I kid you not: the force really is with you! Thanks to a bunch of incredibly fortunate incidences a long time ago human brains evolved and now we have the awesome power of time travel. You have the power to imagine a better future.

So, right now: what does that mean to you? And no, I don’t mean ‘more stuff’, we’re not squirrels. What could your future really mean to you … you and your friends… you and your friends and your family? Try bigger. You and your community, village and town? Spin it along, elaborate, play with it, have some fun. How would you really like your future to be – and that of your kids. Never mind if you don’t have any right now just imagine you did (if you don’t like kids right now then… oh well, imagine that you do…)

Ok, can you see it? If you really work at it you can even touch it and smell it, really feel it but that takes some practice.

Now – slowly, be gentle. Come back to the present.

Take stock, but keep your wonderful ‘future bubble’ alive.

Now compare –  qualitatively compare: where do you stand now, what resources and abilities do you actually have – you probably have a lot more than you at first can think of so keep a running list. What can you acquire? Not all in one go of course but you can work at it every day. Little by little.

Just keep that future alive and bright in your mind and continue moving towards it. And since you cannot do it all alone you’ll have to count on your friends, family and neighbours – starting with your next-door neighbour to eventually widen and broaden your reach across all your communities. Now for just one minute, imagine we would be all doing that, most of the time in a kind and understanding way creating a shared resilient future for all “just right”. Source https://www.impsandmonsters.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Just-Right_800.jpg Wishing you an imaginative and inspiring weekend, and apologies if the above feels a bit like a roller-coast ride; as a mental agility exercise it was meant to be and hopefully also entertaining, thought- and action provoking. Monika thank you for sharing, raising awareness for Emergency Preparedness!

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39 thoughts on “Optimism and Resilience: how to achieve Realistic Confidence in the face of Crisis

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