Partner School Stories

Optimism: A Strength of the Heart

By Joey Pagano


Photo by Kaidi Guo on Unsplash

Some would say our hearts keep us alive, but I will always argue that they keep us living.

Using our hearts to think doesn’t leave us asking “what if” questions. It convinces us to be hopeful. However, thinking with our brains leads us to ask questions like: “What if I fail?” “What if this doesn’t work out?” “What if I regret this in a day, a month, a year?”

Those questions are nonexistent when we base our actions around the instincts that stem from our hearts, which empower us to approach the adrenaline rush of success more than avoiding the disappointment of failure. When we only think with our brain, we are not optimistic enough to be completely convinced we are going to succeed — and self-confident enough to know that it isn’t the end of the world if we fail.

I have trained myself to allow acknowledge my failures, but not allow them to upset me. There’s a clear difference. Falling short of my goals convinces me that I have to change how I approach a given situation, but it doesn’t consume me or take away any of my confidence. I know all failure means is that I have to try again with a different approach.

Sometimes, when I do fail, it seems impossible to find a reason to try again. Other times, I feel that every failure is a sign is pointing me towards another go-around. Either way, the hope and optimism in my heart are my driving forces in a future marked by series of negative thoughts and push me to listen to my heart, which tells me to keep going, even when my brain tells me otherwise.

I motivate myself with the words of Mike Erwin, a co-founder of The Positivity Project: “Positivity is not about wearing rose-colored glasses and rolling over when the going gets tough. It’s about staying focused on the good in any situation.”

When I go through something that drags me down, I remain loyal to the optimistic mindset that has traveled beside me, even when I have failed to immediately recognize it.

That reminds me the future is bright, whether the sun is shining on me or I am in the middle of a thunderstorm. This is because, although hope isn’t always easy to find, it’s always within my reach and pushes me up the hills and digs me out of the valleys of my life.

I go through this every day, multiple times per day. Sometimes, it’s relentless in reminding myself that everything takes a little longer. Other times, it’s using hope to get over the frustration of dealing with stereotypes and remaining confident that I can abolish them, proving myself to anybody I meet, and convincing myself to never give up on my goals.

As I overcome obstacles and pursue my goals, I come across times when I do fall short of accomplishing what I had planned, and I use that failure as a reason to have even more hope and even more faith.

Sometimes, life hits me hard, and I struggle to find the positive aspects of a given situation, which is when I ask myself, “what do I have in the toolbox and how can I use it to my benefit?” When I ask that question, I am able to “slow things down” and realize that the situation is as approachable as any other and can become a success.

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be disappointed when you don’t succeed, because you should. What I am saying and what The Positivity Project emphasizes is it’s important to get over it, because there’s nothing you can do once it’s in the past. Repeatedly thinking about it wastes the time and energy you could spend living in the moment and preparing for the future.

The ability to look beyond the sadness failure brings is extremely important, because that’s what hope is.  As South African Anglican cleric and theologian Bishop Desmond Tutu explained, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.”







Joey Pagano
Student, Syracuse University

Building the Other People Matter Mindset and remembering and emphasizing its importance is what I aim for day after day. As I continue to pursue a career in journalism and attend the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, I aim to show people that buying into The Positivity Project doesn’t mean you have to be happy and positive all the time, but instead means we have to work together more and build positive relationships. You can also find Joey on Twitter @Wheelchair_QB and at his blog www.wheelchairqb.com.