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Winners Choose Optimism Over Realism

By Philip E. Humbert, PhD

What is the biggest, most important key to success in life? Philosophers, coaches, teachers, preachers and consultants have wondered about that since the dawn of time. Fortunately, I think I have the answer!

I'm not claiming to have discovered it by myself. I'm not sure I can even claim to fully understand how it works. But, I do know what it is: Attitude!.

Remember the old saw that, "Your attitude determines your altitude?" I'm convinced it's true.

I was reminded of it this week when I spent several hours driving to some appointments. I ended up scanning radio stations, listening to unhappy people of various descriptions. Unemployment claims were up this week. The government is spending too much, taxing too much, and generally doing lots of things people do not like, while failing to do things they would very much prefer. Even the weather was too hot, except where it was too rainy.

Bottom line: There's a lot of unhappiness on the radio!

Clearly, this is a troubled world and there are lots of problems out there. We can't deny that. But it's also true that, "what we focus on, expands." And, "we become what we think about most of the time."

For most people, optimism is in rather short supply. We are in a recession, and recessions are bad. We are concerned about world peace, terrorism, climate change, unemployment, and buying all the stuff our kids need for school. On a personal note, during that trip I learned my truck needs a new "serpentine belt" that will cost over $300! (Some of us remember when fan belts were $4.99 and you changed them yourself on Saturday afternoon.) There's a world of trouble out there!

The good news--and it is truly Good News--is that there has never been more good news all around us. Most of us are healthy and are likely to stay that way. We can communicate with anyone, any place in the world, usually for free! We can read great books, listen to audio programs, or interview the most talented, successful people who ever lived! We have more "stuff' and access to more wealth than any people in history!

Even in tough times, we are rich beyond measure! And yet the news is almost uniformly bad, bloody and painful. We worry all day long--at least some of us do. People are angry, discouraged, and actively practicing their "victim" approach to life. How sad is that??.

High achievers refuse to live with negativity! Winners have always looked for the good, emphasized hope, and found opportunity where others see only problems.

Successful people reason that if money is tight, folks are looking for bargains. Many of today's richest families got that way because a couple generations ago, Grandpa (or Grandma) made some very smart moves in the midst of the Depression. Winners note that if there is less money, there might be more time as a family. What if the family went on more hikes, picnics or visited more art galleries this fall?.

Optimism comes naturally and easily to only a few. Perhaps they are "lucky" or simply wired differently, I don't know. But for the majority of people, optimism is a learned skill, a chosen approach to life. It's a conscious decision to see "the glass half-full." It's a habit of "whistling while you work" and giving cheerful compliments to everyone you meet. It's something to be practiced (fake it if you have to), until it becomes automatic.

There are lots of good reasons to be pessimistic, but what's the point? Even if it is more "realistic," does it give you any advantages? I prefer optimism. Even foolish, unrealistic, exaggerated optimism. If I'm wrong, I may be briefly disappointed but I figure my "incurable optimism" will give me the momentum to keep on going, no matter what.

Optimism, trying stuff, doing stuff, learning stuff, constantly moving forward is the most fundamental, critical trait of life's happiest, most successful people. I highly recommend it.

Dr Philip Humbert is a Success Strategist, author and popular speaker. Imagine what's possible! To inquire about having him speak to your group or organization, or to schedule an initial consultation, contact him or visit his site at

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