The Power of Optimism

Joshua - Ashland, Massachusetts
Entered on May 13, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe in the power of optimism. Always seeking the positives in any situation. Always looking for improvement. Always striving to better oneself.

I haven’t been so optimistic all my life. My life was always about picking out the bad things in life. I would always judge people. That’s what happens when you judge people; you only pick out the bad things. It’s quite easy to do as, well, there’s a lot of bad in the world. It’s so bad that it seems to outweigh the good most times.

A major turning point in my outlook on life was when I traveled to Nicaragua for a mission. Now, I’m not Christian, but this was still a good experience for me. When I stepped out of the plane and onto a battered, 20 year old bus, I knew this was a different place. Homes are not houses, more like shacks constructed of whatever they can find. People only have one or two sets of clothing. There’s always a nasty smell in the air.

Yet, with all this; all the kids running barefoot, homeless people and lack of traffic lights, people were still happy. Me, I wasn’t too happy with who I was. But when I saw that you could be happy, even in their situation, I knew I was doing something wrong and I had to change it. And if you think about it, it’s really the only way you could survive in such a situation. If you’re always dwelling on the negatives, where will that take you? If you’re living on the streets and you say to yourself, “This is it. I’ve hit rock bottom. This is the end”, then, it really is the end for you.

I used to place so much emphasis on material desires. I thought those were the things that made you happy. You watch Cribs, you see celebrities living like kings and you say to yourself, “I want that.” What we like and dislike change over time, but there’s only one thing that stays constant and that’s people. If you break down this world, it’s just people. It’s the greatest source of our unhappiness, but it can also be the greatest source of happiness. If you can be happy just coexisting with one another, is there really need for anything else?

I also believe that emotions spread and that they spread like wildfire. If you tie this in with optimism, there’s a lot that can be accomplished. Just one light bulb can brighten up an entire room. I find it to be the same with people. If even one person is happy, it spreads. You can’t help but smile with the person who’s been smiling their entire life. And this isn’t just happiness, either. It’s also anger, sadness and whatever other emotions you can think of.

I believe in the power of optimism. I’m always trying to incorporate this idea into everything I do and so far, it’s worked out pretty well.