Life is full of bumps and hiccups. Frustrations and setbacks. Transitions and “Where do we go from here?” moments.
But life is neither measured nor shaped by these difficulties. Life is measured and shaped by how we confront these difficulties.
Sometimes, we have all the energy, motivation, indignance or confidence we need to confront our difficulties head-on. First day of college? “I’ve got this.” Moving to a new city for work? “I’ve got this.” Taking a newborn and a 2 year old to the grocery store? “I’ve got this.” Heading into the office and owning it after a particularly bad meeting? “I’ve got this.”
Sometimes, though, we all need to reach a little deeper to find the energy and the courage to see the tomorrow that’s just beyond the horizon.
It’s all in there: the energy, the courage, the confidence to move forward. It’s in every one of us. But knowing how to look inward, how to find that energy, how to bring it to the surface is a practiced skill, a skill that takes time to learn and to get good at.
We call this skill determined optimism. And we believe that if you can learn, practice and master this skill, you’ll always find a better tomorrow just beyond the horizon.
Throughout the year, we are going to explore how determined optimists navigate the bumps, frustrations and occasional catastrophes life throws at them. Use the ideas below to help chart your own course to a better tomorrow.
Determined optimists find room to live big lives, even when their living spaces themselves are small.
It’s easy to feel cramped in a small apartment, especially when life gets busy and clutter starts to pile up. There is a secret to making small homes work, though, and it starts with a simple mindset change.
Think about your idea of what “home” means to you. Is it a room? An apartment? An entire building? A neighborhood? A city?
Different people will answer that differently. Therefore, the definition of “home” is flexible, and determined optimists have learned how to define fundamental ideas like “home” on their own terms.
So, don’t limit your definition of home to a single living space. Instead, think about the cumulative spaces where you feel comfortable spreading your whole life out. Maybe that includes a neighbor’s apartment (because she has a nice balcony where you can sit outside and drink tea). Maybe that’s a cafe downstairs, a la Friends. Maybe that’s a studio space you rent out to give your creative spirit a place of its own.
Maybe it’s simply the park across the street.
When you think about all the spaces your life fills, you’ll realize that your home is actually probably larger than you imagined. The specific living space where your kitchen, couch and bed are comprises but one component of that larger home.
Determined optimists find ways to make that living space work while understanding that they have plenty of places where they can spread their wings.
Determined optimists are proactive when it’s time to sell their homes and move on to bigger and better things.
We move for lots of reasons: New jobs, new relationships, new starts.
Unfortunately, our living spaces can complicate our transitions, especially when we have to sell a home as part of the move. When you’re moving onto a new opportunity, the last thing you need is a vestige of your old life holding you back and keeping you in state of limbo. That’s exactly what it feels like when you’ve got a home on the market for months, and it just won’t sell.
That’s why determined optimists see the value in being proactive about making their home look its best when it’s time to sell. For the exact same reason you put on a sharp suit or dress for a job interview, you want to make sure your home puts its very best foot forward when potential buyers come take a look at it.
Home staging does just that — it puts your home’s best foot forward. And it’s commonly understood to help you sell faster, and potentially for much more money.
“A well-dressed, sparkling house can garner lots of attention, and potentially sell very quickly,” Ilona Bray writes at NOLO. “This is true regardless of whether the market is cold or hot. In a cold market, buyers don’t have to settle for anything less than the best. Why should they spend time and money fixing up a distressed home when a staged house looks great and is move-in ready?
“In a hot market, buyers can go into feeding-frenzy mode, focusing on the hot property of the week and ignoring the others. So you want your property to be the hot one, with buyers going crazy in their efforts to outbid each other.”
Determined optimists find ways to thrive, even when they have yet to plant new roots.
It takes time for a new place to feel like home.
If you move somewhere by yourself, you can feel adrift for a while as you find new friends and new spaces where you can spread your wings.
If you move with friends or loved ones, the transition can certainly be a little easier because you have built-in support. At the same time, it’s easy to shy away from new opportunities in unfamiliar environments when that support is there to lean on. As with everything, you have to find that balance.
Determined optimists thrive in new environments by remaining outwardly focused and actively seeking out the opportunities those new environments provide to fully express their true selves. For example, if you love painting, look for groups of artists who get together and work in a shared space, or perhaps take a painting class.
Or, think more altruistically. Not every new environment offers a perfect match for a newcomer’s talents and hobbies, but every place that has people has someone who could use a helping hand. Look for volunteer organizations you can get involved in. By working on bettering yourself and your new community, you unlock the determined optimism that makes an initially unfamiliar place eventually feel quite familiar.
Determined optimists are the creators and owners of the small businesses that drive this country’s economy.
No one understands the bumps, frustrations and moments of unbridled joy quite like entrepreneurs. On most days, they experience all three at some point.
We firmly believe entrepreneurs, just like determined optimists, aren’t born but shaped over time. In other words, business acumen isn’t found in your genes; it comes from how you view the world. And it must be cultivated over time.
The entrepreneur’s starting point is the same as the determined optimist’s: A mindset that sees opportunities, not challenges.
“Some people may go through life and don’t quite see the opportunities,” Babson College professor of entrepreneurship Dr. Julian Lange tells Entrepreneur magazine. “Once they look at the world through a slightly different lens, they start to see what may have potential.
“Opportunities in general don’t jump out and you say ‘Ahh!’ — they have to be shaped, they have to be created, and once people understand that process, they will never look at the world the same way again. It doesn’t mean they will act on the opportunity — that’s a different part of the process. But if people are more sensitive to seeing opportunities, they are more likely to act on them.”
Determined optimists understand they do not succeed on their own, and they pay it forward.
Awareness of opportunities, an ability to dig deep to find your reserves of courage, an energy and a determination to continually move forward — we all cultivate these things ourselves, sure, but we built those skills on top of the lessons and acts of kindness we received from others.
That’s what Isaac Newton was referring to when he said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
All of those lessons, those acts of kindness, those moments of fortune, we cannot repay those. How can you repay a life lesson, after all? But we can pay those forward.
This is one of the most important things a determined optimist comes to understand. And they seek out opportunities to pay things forward, whether that is by helping out at a communal kitchen during the holidays, passing lessons onto their children, or simply being available to share a lifetime of warmth and wisdom with anyone willing to receive it.
Determined optimists aren’t perfect.
Along with paying things forward, this is the other ultimate lesson in humility determined optimists must learn. Sometimes, the frustrations and the setbacks get the better of us.
Sometimes, we struggle to put on a brave face after a particularly tough meeting.
Sometimes, the snooze button wins.
Still, the thing that keeps a determined optimist going forward is hope, hope that the next day will be full of new opportunities, of inspiration, of people with whom we can share a little warmth and understanding.
That brightness just over the horizon represents something different to each of us, too, but if we work at it individually and together, we can wake up with the hope, the motivation and the mutual support to keep moving forward.
So, what’s your better tomorrow?