Our life’s journey has landed us on the shores of the year 2020. It sounds lyrical and uplifting and it should be a good year. It is entirely up to us.
Like voyagers in a time machine we never know when and where it will take us. We dream of treasures and pleasures, expecting they will be accompanied by moans and groans.
In our quest for triumphs we make resolutions.
It is an old tradition that goes back 4,000 years to ancient Babylonians who made resolutions part of the New Year celebrations. While our two most popular resolutions are to lose weight and quit smoking, the Babylonians resolved to pay their outstanding debts and return all borrowed tools, they too could be well applied today.
Despite every good intention — to accomplish, to improve, to succeed, we seldom reach our goals. “The soul is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
We are only continuing a long tradition of broken resolutions… do not be ashamed, but start again with more determination.
Do not allow forces to get in the way, what you call, life, destiny, fate or luck. Such ideas nestled in our mind, weaken our will and we are unable to realise that they are in fact within our power.
“The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”
The difference is not merely in our nature but in our will. It is an integral part of how we conduct our lives.
Why wait for a new year? Every day is a new gift, a new opportunity, a new chance to renew our in earnest our life’s purpose.
We turn to experts for some guidelines and find ourselves back at the same old caveat: optimism vs pessimism. We believe we are either optimists or pessimists, when in fact, we are neither or both. It all springs from our outlook, and the object is to retain a bright outlook. Yes, yes, “a glass half full” is a good example.
Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism writes: “We can control our thoughts as we can control our muscles,” and it is within everyone’s reach.
Speak to yourself more kindly as you would a loving friend. Instead of: “I’ll never get it right”. Tell yourself, “I’ll do better tomorrow.”
You can break the pessimistic cycle if you boost up your mood and self-esteem. It takes most people a few weeks to get the knack of it, but once the technique is learned, the less likely a relapse occurs. That is well documented.
We all strive on hope. Never give it up. Renew it every day.
Some people ask what is hope, where do you find it?
Hope is not wishful thinking. It is a variable quality of deep feelings, understanding and faith. Martin Luther King Jr had hope. Though he lived during the worst times, lamenting the inhuman treatment of the black people in his country… he had hope. He spread the hope to his neighbours, friends, community, race, and together they fulfilled what he probably never even imagined. They elected a black president to the US.
It is never too late to hope, to wish, to dream. They can come true. They do come true.
Every day is a gift, a new beginning, offering new hope. Do not toss it away. Hope. Work. Change. Distract yourself from any troubles and start a new day as if it were the first day of your life.
Studies show that that if you think about problems in a negative frame of mind you come up with fewer solutions.
With all his lifelong persecution and torment was Gandhi an optimist or a pessimist? He freed himself from the pessimistic tendencies and broke the cycle of oppression by thinking creatively. He never lost his self-esteem because things did not go his way, instead he thought more deeply and the whole world listened and learned.
There are those “pathological” pessimists as well as optimists. The eternal optimist was Mozart. He was almost pathologically optimistic with an exuberant self-confidence and he wrote the finest music human ears ever heard.
Professor Andrew Steptoe of St George’s Hospital Medical School says that towards the end of Mozart’s short life, when he suffered the death of four children, serious illnesses and repeated financial disasters, his optimism actually rose.
The human mind’s capacity is shamefully neglected by the human. If only we can remember that every morning as we remember to brush our teeth, drink or coffee or read our newspaper. Let your mind wash out the dark colouring to every event that closes the vistas of hope. Open up that other distant corner in your mind and suddenly everything will seem bright and hopeful.
A list of optimists will show that the greater minds have taken the hopeful view of life… Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, St. Augustine and the Scholastics, Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, etc.
In every walk of life an optimist is desired company in case some of it rubs off. We are not doomed just because we are born with a more somber nature that only sees the dark side. Tomorrow is another day, better still we have a whole new year to work on adopting a whole new outlook. Life is good, can you not see that?
Just tell yourself every day that the universe as a whole is good and that man’s ultimate destiny is happiness.
That will be your destiny too.
“I’m a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
*A version of this article appears in print in the 9 January, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.