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Monday, May 10, 2021


Optimists have a lot going for them. Much more than people realize. I count myself as one. And I enjoy the fellowship of those of like mind.

Bestselling author and business leader Harvey Mackay said, “An optimist understands that life can be a bumpy road, but at least it is leading somewhere. They learn from mistakes and failures, and are not afraid to fail again.”

It was Helen Keller who reminded us, “No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.”

One of the better articles on this subject I’ve read recently is titled, “Why Positivity Matters.” The author, Ginny Graves, is a self-described pessimist. Perhaps that is why she chose this subject to learn more about.

Simply put, optimists tend to believe that good things happen. They are prone to having “rose-colored glasses.” The possibility of negative outcomes does not dominate their thoughts.

The questions we must ask are, “Does it matter? Are optimists any better off?” Apparently so.

Ginny’s article cites a 2019 study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Researchers there discovered that optimists, in general, “are exceptional agers.” One of the study’s authors reported, “We controlled for a number of factors that we know can affect health, like socioeconomic status, underlying health conditions, depression, and health behaviors—and optimism was still correlated strongly with living to be 85 or older.”

Another source, Dr. William Chopik, works as director of the Close Relationships Lab at Michigan State University. He tells us, “Studies show that optimists have longer-lasting, deeper, and more supportive friendships, even though they don’t necessarily have more friends than less optimistic people. They’re better at solving problems with friends and loved ones too.” Ready to start looking up?

How does this optimism contribute to a better work life? Two other researchers on the topic of optimism discovered that “so-called visionary work optimists—those who scored in the top 25 percent on an optimism assessment—were 40 percent more likely than pessimists to get promoted in the coming year, six times as likely to feel highly engaged at work, and one-fifth as likely to burn out.” These results were determined after their study included professionals at hundreds of companies.

Michelle Gielan, one of the researchers of that work study, explained: “Optimists don’t just believe that good things will happen; they believe their behavior matters and that they have the ability to change things, so they’re more likely to take action and make progress toward their goals.”

Another interesting item I found in “Why Postivity Matters” involves exercise. German researchers have determined that 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise increases life expectancy by between 0.4 and 6.9 years. I put in 30 minutes a day, every day, on my exercise bike. It’s probably my least optimistic time–but I press on.

Can a pessimist become more of an optimist? Ginny Graves thinks so. Her researchers offer this advice. Send a short email to someone every day–praising or encouraging them. Setting and achieving goals will prove you are indeed a “can-do” person. And Ms. Gielan added, start the day with gratitude. I’m sold on that!

The apostle Paul tells us this, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 (NLT)

The novelist L.M. Montgomery who wrote the Anne of Green Gables series gave us this bright insight: “Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

This bottom line advice I embrace from an unknown source: “Everything will fall into place, just be patient.”

In Chicago, we have a simple definition of a true optimist. It’s the one who says, “THIS year the Bears will win it all!”

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at

For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit

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