I came across this in 2000 and really liked it. It was written by Max More and it covers all the basics of what it means to be an optimist. Like anything psychology related you simply can’t change your personality and embrace an ideology on a whim but the essay is on the head about optimism. This has also inspired a soon to be added mental health page.
DYNAMIC OPTIMISM is an active, empowering, constructive attitude that creates conditions for success by focusing and acting on possibilities and opportunities.
To understand Dynamic Optimism deeply and to apply it to expanding our lives, we need to become aware of its diverse aspects—the personal characteristics of a dynamic optimist and the kinds of powerful thinking patterns such a person displays. The dynamic optimist both interprets experience positively, and influences outcomes positively. Merely believing that everything will work out fine without taking action makes one a foolish optimist, not a dynamic optimist. For optimism to give us the power to overcome the limits in our lives it needs to fully recognize reality, not hide from it. For optimism to maximize our abilities and happiness, we have to take responsibility for our thoughts, our attitudes, and our actions. This world is full of possibility. We can achieve almost anything we can conceive. Yet we will move forward only by turning dreams into practical, rational, responsible thinking. This kind of thinking will naturally generate productive activity.
The twelve key characteristics of the dynamic optimist can be stated briefly but take practice and wisdom to implement consistently. First I will divide them into characteristics involving the positive interpretation of experience and the positive influencing of outcomes. We can then investigate in more detail what each involves.
INTERPRETING EXPERIENCE POSITIVELY:
(1) Selective Focus: Emphasizing the enjoyable, constructive, open aspects of life.
(2) Refraining from Complaining: Avoiding pointless complaining and whining about one’s difficulties. Taking the world as it is and not complaining that life isn’t fair.
(3) Questioning Limits: A constructive skepticism that challenges the limiting beliefs held by ourselves, our associates, and our society. A fundamental creative openness to possibilities.
(4) Sense of Abundance: Feeling free to do what you want, rather than feeling compelled by circumstances or people. Recognizing the world to be full of opportunities. Being for things, not against things.
(5) Humor: Seeing one’s own shortcomings with a sense of humor. Allowing healthy, good-natured humor to reveal new perspectives and combat dogmatic thinking.
INFLUENCING OUTCOMES POSITIVELY:
(6) Rational: Using reason rather than being lead by fears and desires. Objectively assessing situations and taking action based on understanding reality apart from our wishes.
(7) Self-Improving: Optimists see the self as a process and seek continual improvement. Their drive to improve is not pushed by fear but pulled by a inspiring self-image.
(8) Experimental: Frequently trying fresh approaches, staying out of ruts, actively seeking more effective ways of achieving goals, and being willing to take calculated risks.
(9) Self-Confident: Believing that we can bring about good things. A fundamental conviction of competence in living.
(10) Self-Worth: Believing one is worthy of success and happiness. Without this, attempts to improve one’s life will lack motivation.
(11) Personal Responsibility: Taking charge and creating the conditions for success. Being aware of how we determine our chances of success. This crucially involves integrity: living according to one’s values.
(12) Selecting Environment: Being attracted to positive people and situations. Seeking out those who will support and inspire, not discourage, distract, and undermine.
These twelve characteristics of effective optimists give us specific ways of turning the abstract idea of dynamic optimism into actions. Later we will see how these characteristics or attitudes can be turned into particular thinking patterns suited to living effectively. I should note here that the division into interpreting events and influencing outcomes is intended as a tool for understanding and application. The division should not be taken as a theoretically watertight one. Some characteristics could be placed in either category. The two categories go closely together: positive interpretations tend naturally to lead to positive actions by changing the focus of your energy and attention, and positive actions can easily reinforce habits of interpretation.