How to Be an Optimist in a Critical World

red shoes

Everywhere I look lately there is a cause, a criticism, and a sense of hopelessness for how we are meeting the needs of the world. It’s difficult to know how to stay engaged and informed while living a life of peace, love, and optimism.

When things seem hopeless and dark, there is a temptation to turn it all off; to remove people we disagree with from our news feeds, to shut out the political conversation, and to put on rose-colored glasses hoping things will just work out. The problem with this mentality is that it isn’t optimistic or hopeful, it’s blind. Shutting out the problem doesn’t help create the world we long to see, it only protects us from what makes us uncomfortable. In return, we are stifled, stuck, and far from optimistic.

True optimism is more than positive thoughts and high hopes. By definition, optimism is a hopeful confidence about the future; confidence being defined by a certainty rooted in truth. This means true optimism is not just blind faith or complacency, it’s where dreaming, truth, and action collide!

So, if you’re an optimist who has felt overwhelmed and bombarded by the harshness of the world, then stay engaged, stay grounded, and take action.

Here are four ways you can be an optimist in a harsh world:

girl optimist

1. Start with self-love and self-compassion.

When you begin to understand how important it is for your needs to be met, your eyes open to the needs of others and you have the energy to extend a helping hand. Many of us feel overwhelmed at the amount of needs we see. When you’re taking care of yourself and staying grounded, you’ll be a better judge of how you can give your energy without depleting your cup. (No one is helpful when they’ve run completely dry!)

2, Keep an understanding heart.

Be open to new ideas, different opinions, and try to understand people who are different than you. It’s easy to love someone who is just like you, and it’s tempting to shut out those family members and old friends who believe differently. What can you do to be a bridge, not a gap? How can you bring an un-offended heart to the conversation and kindly engage? Understanding builds bridges.

What can you do to be a bridge, not a gap?

3. Remember love is an action.

Instead of trying to fix every issue in the world (which often leaves us paralyzed), take one simple step of action. You don’t have to be passionate about the same causes as your friends. Find your one thing and devote yourself to taking action on your one thing. Ask yourself, if love is an action, then what am I moving towards?

red shoes steps

4. Stay powerfully engaged.

Living with a closed mind and rose-colored veil might make you happier for a while, but it will also lead to you feeling bombarded with negative information and helpless! Choose to live powerfully engaged. You can make decisions in love instead of reacting in fear, be informed without being overwhelmed, and see suffering with an option to serve. When you live like this, you can be a part of creating the world you long to see.

Being an optimist is so much more than blind faith and inspiring quotes on Instagram. Optimism is grounded confidence and creating the world we dream of. Instead of allowing life’s harsh realities make you hopeless and stifled, get excited!

We are not just hoping for a good outcome, we are creating the world we long to see. As you go, just remember to take care of yourself, remain open, keep loving, and stay in your power. And when things get especially hard, remember you aren’t alone.

We’ve got this, together.

How do you stay optimistic when it feels impossible?

Images by Lindsey Harris Shorter for Thelma

Madison is a life coach, speaker, writer, and entrepreneur who helps women own their story, step out of fear and shame and come alive to their most vibrant, confident selves. Known for her soulful spirit, she brings authenticity, power, and creativity into all she does. Whether she is working one on one with clients, facilitating a workshop, or speaking to a large group, it’s Madison's deepest desire to see women step up to their very best and truly come alive.

11 COMMENTS
  • Anonymous March 7, 2017

    Where are those red loafers from? Adorable!

  • Sheridan March 7, 2017

    Thank you for writing this. I needed to be reminded that love is an action and that true optimism is more than positive thoughts and high hopes. Thank you for your kind and powerful words.

    – Sheridan

    • madison March 8, 2017

      You’re so welcome, Sheridan! I think we hear a lot of messages about “thinking positive” without any practical application, and integrating optimism with the real world. I always stand by the mantra: love is an action.

      XO
      -Madison

  • Ashley Smith March 1, 2017

    You are so right on with the quote “option to serve!” We do have the ability to design our world around us. Take all the negativity around you and find creative ways to make it a positive! I like the play this as a game! How many positive switches can you make in a day? Amazing post Madison and thank you for reminding me of this! ??

    • Madison March 1, 2017

      YES, girl!! It’s all about realizing you have the option and are more than capable of giving to others and making a change.

      So much love!
      -Madison

  • Christine Rose Elle March 1, 2017

    Great article from a truly awesome life coach! So many takeaways!

    • Madison March 1, 2017

      Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment, Christine! 🙂

      -M

  • Elisabeth Fondell March 1, 2017

    Thank you for sharing these words, Madison. As I read this and ponder the idea of this hope, I’m reminded of Rebecca Solnit’s words, “To hope is to gamble. It’s to bet on your futures, on your desires, on the possibility that an open heart and uncertainty is better than gloom and safety. To hope is dangerous, and yet it is the opposite of fear, for to live is to risk.”

    We can be hopeful even if we don’t know the answer. We can be hopeful even as we’re scared. We can be hopeful even when things are hard. And we can be hopeful even in the dark, for the darkness blooms and sings, as Wendell Berry says.

    Elisabeth
    elisabethafondell.com

    • Madison March 1, 2017

      Elizabeth, thanks so much for commenting and leaving that quote! I’ve copied it to my notes on my computer so I can remember it! 🙂 It’s all about hope. Without hope, we cannot create the changes we want (and need) to see in the world.

      Here’s to the dreamers. 😉

      -Madison

  • I have a hard time staying optimistic in general. I’m a realist and more of a pessimist. But I do feel like I have an understanding heart… just not to myself! Gotta practice self-love more!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

    • Madison March 1, 2017

      Charmaine, I love your transparency! We all have a bent and a lens we see in the world. I think a healthy realism is important when dreaming up the future. It’s all about what you’re choosing to let into your thoughts and believe.

      And as you said, self-love is the perfect place to start! 🙂

      So much love,
      Madison

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