I love painting doughnuts. They are sweet and nostalgic and whimsical, which is how one might describe my artwork. I’d probably be content to paint nothing more than doughnuts for the rest of my life.
Only one problem.
Every time I paint doughnuts, I want to eat them. Which is not sustainable. Unless I add “getting cut out of my home and removed via crane” to my bucket list, which I’d rather not.
You know what is sustainable? Optimism. Deciding to look on the bright side and find the good in every person and every situation. It sustains us in the good times and the bad times, with no discernible downsides.
Sadly, people who are regularly optimistic are often viewed in the same light as doughnuts: Nice and sweet, but completely lacking in any nutritional substance. To the cynics of the world, an optimistic person is an intellectual lightweight. A simpleton. Blind to the realities of the world.
I submit that the way of the cynic is the easy way. Although smugly disguised in trendy hipster jeans and an ironic smile, being cynical is the lazy way out. It takes no special skill to identify negatives, assume the worst, and rain down judgment on everyone else.
Check your Facebook feed to see if I’m right.
In our self-help culture, we have thousands of books at our disposal that will tell us how to be happy. We keep buying them, hoping the sheer act of reading them will transform us, as if there is some secret bit of knowledge that has not yet been revealed to mankind — or at least to us — that will change everything. But the advice is always the same, so we skip it, judging it to not have worked.
But reading about something is not the same as doing it. The doing part is always harder than the reading part.
Although I know naturally optimistic people, optimism remains a choice. You can choose to see the good in every person and every situation, no matter how dire or despicable.
Now, is it easy? Hells no.
Being kind and respectful to a person who has opposing political views than you? Hard.
Looking for the good when your family has been blindsided by a devastating illness? Hard.
Straining to see something redeemable in that idiot co-worker? Hard.
Finding reasons to be grateful when you’re out of work and have no money to buy Christmas gifts for your kids? Hard.
Of course, we’d rather have our situation change. We’d rather have the other guy change. We’d rather have that policy changed. But if we have the courage to change ourselves, everything changes.
Living a life filled with peace, joy and happiness is no easy task. There is no magic pill. It’s can’t be delivered via Amazon Prime. But being cynical isn’t the answer, it’s a one way ticket in the wrong direction.
There is no downside to optimism.
Heck, the best way to turn any bad mood into a good one is to change your perspective from cynical to optimistic and begin counting all the things you are thankful for.
Starting with doughnuts.