DLW is an occasional blog about how people spend the time of their lives (every moment) to enable health, balance, meaning and fulfillment. As a blogspot about doing, it draws from personal stories and from studies of everyday living. It's main idea is that to be well, people must be involved fully in what they do. The activities that occupy our days help to connect us to the world, define who we are, and keep us healthy.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Optimism and its global Importance — Especially Now

A recent article describing Sir David Tang's observations about optimism as the cure for the global economic meltdown is one of the most important messages delivered in the past three months. You can read it in its entirety here. It deserves far more exposure, in my opinion.

Sir David makes several wise observations, including the need to distinguish value and cost, to recognize that size and importance are not the same thing, and to appreciate that productive work is one the most important "assets" we have. Notice that productive work is not the same as making money. People who trade paper derivatives on wall street make money, but their work is not productive in the sense that it adds much value to the world.

There are not more educated people as a result of trading derivatives, no new houses, roads or labor saving products as a result of the work of those financiers, and no entertaining poems, or beautiful planted trees to decorate the landscape. Nor, indeed, are there well made clothes, shoes, or cars that provide useful benefits to society as a result of such work. If work is done only to make money, no real tangible wealth is created. It's just paper that can be traded for products and services that represent real work. Often, this wealth comes at another person's expense.

Work that produces something of value for the world is work that gives the doer a sense of contribution and pride. When that work goes away, people lose meaning and become depressed. People without productive work are among the unhappiest people in the world, not because they lack money, but because they lack the work itself. As a result, they can lose hope and become pessimists.

Sir David Tang notes that pessimists have a way of creating more pessimism. And when people are pessimistic, they often create a self-fulfilling prophecy. If they believe there is no future, they begin to act in ways that creates that dismal outcome. On the other hand, laughter and optimism are equally contagious and inspire hope and actions that create better futures. Humans in groups have the power to create optimism or pessimism.

There is abundant research in the psychological literature that demonstates the value of optimism. Few if any of these studies discuss optimism and economic outlook, but many show that optimistic people are more resilient, live longer, and are able to influence their own healing. Studies show that optimists make the best salespeople. While their mood probably makes them seem more approachable or engaging, their belief in making the sale also makes them more engaged and persistent. Sales success requires persistence.

Besides, optimists are more fun to be around. Economic stimulus packages that create jobs double the return on their investment. Why? Because the result can not only be people with the ability to earn money for rent, food and clothes, but more importantly people who feel better about themselves and their futures because they are doing productive work.

About Me

I am a writer, lifelong student, former academic and new blogger. My passion continues to be everyday living. I am interested in what people do, how, when and why they do it, and what it means for their their understanding of the world and hence, their well being.