Week 15 - OptimismBy Jeff Bryan
I feel sad, I feel anxious, I feel helpless. And it’s very easy to lose hope, but we cannot do that. I always say that there is a lot more good in the world than there is bad, and I continue to believe that. And, that is what we need to continue to focus on.
For an overview of each weekly slide presentation, please skip below to your specific grade level.
To see the 1-page Optimism Character Card and share it with your students’ families, click here.
For the P2 Reflection Journals, used by all elementary students at the end of the week, click here.
Optimism means you expect the best from the future and work to achieve it. On this strength, we want to make an important note, as many people conflate positive psychology (and The Positivity Project) with “only seeing the positive and ignoring the negative.” However, the importance of negative emotions — and experiences — is actually a key tenant in positive psychology and The Positivity Project.
Dr. Chris Peterson explained this when he wrote, “There is a temptation to regard positive psychology as focusing on the stress-free individual, but this is a mistake…In accentuating the positive, we cannot ignore the negative. Conditions of adversity, whether external or internal, must be part of what we address in discussing character strengths.” For example, we can’t be brave without first feeling fear; we can’t show self-control without first feeling temptation; we don’t persevere without first wanting to quit.
Hope and optimism represent a state of hopefulness and confidence about the future (both short and long term). People with this strength are future-oriented. They have a positive vision of what the future holds and maintain confidence that they will get there. They keep a positive attitude despite setbacks – and often find ways to convert what seems like an obstacle into a stepping-stone to achieve their goals.
Optimistic people are sometimes regarded as naïve or even delusional. And, yes, there are some people who are illogically optimistic, which can be detrimental. However, optimism 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 – allowing you to be aware of opportunities and accountable for your emotions.
This week’s example is Ellen DeGeneres. As the host of Ellen, she makes a concerted effort to highlight the good happening in the world — whether that’s in schools, on highways or in people’s homes. And, as the below video demonstrates, she doesn’t ignore the negative. There are times when she feels “sad, anxious, and helpless.” She identifies and feels those emotions, but then refocuses on her fervent belief that “there is a lot more good in the world than there is bad.”
So, why does optimism matter?
For individuals, optimism is correlated with success in work and play, mental and physical health, and strong social relationships. Optimistic people are planners and goal setters. Due to their future-oriented mindset, they are often hard-working, conscientious, and able to overcome obstacles. And, according to academic studies on POWs, optimism is the most important predictor of resilience.
On a group level, optimism is crucial to group success. Optimists are strong leaders. They find meaning in hardship and can create a vision for the future. They look at potential obstacles as opportunities, rather than threats. Without hope and optimism, we would not be able to overcome hardships. We would be stuck where we are. Optimists are inspiring; their example is contagious. And, by sharing and achieving their vision – despite setbacks – they help us all achieve more.
And, as a reminder, you can find all of our weekly slide presentations on our website’s Resources page here. This page is the place that we recommend you go to access all of the resources — not via Google Drive folders.
To find your grade level’s presentation, you can simply type the word “optimism” into the Resource Title search bar or sort by Character Strength and select optimism. Each of those options will provide you with 10 slide presentations and one 1-page character card. For a simple overview of the Resources page, with pictures and videos, click here.