Learned optimism

We humans are a gloomy bunch, even when things are improving. This is because our feelings are not data-driven, but memory-driven. We rely on how easy it is to recall an example, and bad things are more memorable, because we have evolved to be cognizant of risks and dangers. 

Moreover, bad things get reported and crowd our newsfeeds. Car crashes are reported; cars reaching their destinations safely, are not.

This means that for many of us, being optimistic requires conscious effort. 

I spent much of my youth as a depressive. I had good reason to be such. I did not stop being a depressive because my luck changed, but rather, my luck changed when I stopped being depressed. I made a conscious decision to cheer the fuck up. It was an unrelated quote from Winston Churchill that stirred me to action: "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses for peace must be constructed." I decided I would change my life by changing my mind.

I began by learning the hardest math of all: the math of counting my blessings. I got better with practice.

I have to work hard to remain optimistic, because I’m a natural brooder, prone to ruminating on the meaninglessness of life.

I‘m fortunate to be around people who have had very hard lives and yet have remained optimistic and are quick to delight. I‘ve watched and learned from them and so my optimism is a learned, and practiced optimism.

While some people are naturally happy, others need to make an effort. So work at it, and have a Happy (or even Happier) New Year.

Gaurang Thakkar 

December, 2018

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