One of the most familiar illustrations to compare optimists and pessimists uses the humble glass of water. The optimist sees half-full, the pessimist only sees half-empty.
A young child once turned that comparison upside down. After drinking half of their glass of milk, they set it down and announced: “I’m an optimist. My glass is half-empty.” When told that their view was pessimistic, they replied: “Not if you don’t like what’s in the glass.”
For the optimist, a previously undiscovered path or unexpected outcome is seen as a learning experience and opportunity for growth. They live by a mantra that ‘whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. It is cause for an eye roll from the eternal pessimist! However, choosing the opposite mindset falls you victim to the Chicken Little Syndrome, where “The sky is falling,” whenever a minor mishap is encountered. A healthy medium holds a view of hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something despite perhaps unfavourable circumstances.
This week the returning Year 11 and 12 students have been told that the choice of mindset is fundamentally theirs.
Winston Churchill described the difference between mindsets in this way; “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” He made his own attitude clear with these words: “For myself, I am an optimist — it does not seem to be of much use being anything else.” It was Prime Minister Churchill’s attitude that would help his countrymen not merely survive but go on to defeat their enemy during World War II.
One characteristic that often goes hand in hand with optimism is enthusiasm. Right-click your mouse on the word optimism and it will show enthusiasm as one of its synonyms. Enthusiasm has been described as being natural; being alive, taking the initiative, seeing the importance of what you do, giving it dignity and making what you do important to yourself and to others.”
The take-home message for Mueller’s seniors this week was this: their 2020 year is going to be remembered for COVID-19. That can’t be avoided. But it is what they decide to do with that – that will make it memorable. An optimistic mindset, and an enthusiastic approach to making what remains of this year the very best it can be, will overshadow what the limitations and restrictions have caused them to miss out on, with a sense of achievement and success in a year not forgotten.