Want to Change the World? Try Grounded Optimism

May 25, 2018 | By Sally Bolger

black and white photo of protestor with sign

Optimism Is a Political Act

One of the most powerful things you can to do to change the world is to cultivate your own optimism. To quote futurist Alex Steffen:

“Those who benefit from the status quo are perfectly happy for us to think nothing is going to get any better. In fact, these days, cynicism is obedience.”

When it comes to creating a thriving, just and sustainable world, believing that a better future is possible can be revolutionary. Every day, sometimes many times a day, we hear news about the political and social tumult confronting us. It is hard to know how to react, how to engage. It is easy to fall into the cynicism that the problems are too big, that nothing we do can make a difference. And that is where optimism comes in.

Optimism Is the Antidote to Cynicism

Study after study has shown the correlation between optimism and success in reaching goals. Whether in healthcareer, or activism, optimism and the confidence it engenders leads to the emotional resilience to recover from setbacks, enabling the perseverance required to reach long term goals.

Grounded Optimism Is the Key to Success

What is required, however, is not an idealistic, head-in-the-clouds form of optimism.  What is required is a realistic acknowledging-the-difficulties optimism. It is what Pachamama Alliance Co-founder Lynne Twist calls “grounded optimism.”


It is the combination of a positive attitude and a pragmatic assessment of the challenges that leads to success. Rather than believing success will simply happen to them, grounded optimists acknowledge that reaching their goals won’t come easily. They take a more realistic view that they will have to participate in making success happen. And because of that they put in more effort, plan how to deal with potential problems, and persist longer in the face of difficulty.

Optimism as Activism

No matter the political climate, change has always been made by people who believed in the possibility of something different. Nelson Mandela once shared that

“I approach every problem with optimism.”

A realistic assessment of the territory ahead combined with the belief in ultimate success leads to the confidence, resilience, and perseverance essential for long-term efforts. It is the alchemy that creates hope. It enables engagement with the problems that we face and supports the activism required to create change. Understand the problems, look them square in the eye, believe in your ultimate success, and get to work. Your optimism will light your way and inspire others. It is the ultimate political act.

Explore the underlying causes of the environmental and social crises that  humanity faces in Awakening the Dreamer, our free, online course.

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