By Chris Cade
Lately I've been really interested in looking at the meaning of words in new ways. Words are the primary way we communicate (especially in digital mediums). And they are symbols for what lies in our minds, both consciously and subconsciously.
By redefining words consciously, you can actually begin to rewire your subconscious for your benefit. That's because as we live more consciously, our subconscious is also affected (whether we're trying or not).
Today, I'm going to look at "optimism." In most contexts, we think of optimism as assuming a positive outcome. The first definition in a dictionary supports this view:
"A tendency to expect the best possible outcome or dwell on the most hopeful aspects of a situation"
In other words, it's an expectation that the future will be ideal.
What's missing from this equation though is context. Who exactly decides what is "more ideal" or "best possible outcome" or "hopeful aspects"?
Is it your ego? How does that compare if somebody else's ego disagrees?
For example a tennis match. Both players are optimistic that they will win. Each player has practiced for many years and has a variety of excellent techniques to defeat their opponents.
Yet only one can win. Therefore, we have to ask:
Does optimism serve them both?
Sure they both can expect to win. Sure both can prepare to win. Since only one can win though, this view of optimism is limited.
I'm beginning to wonder about a different way of looking at optimism. Here's two other definitions of optimism:
"(a) The doctrine that this world is the best of all possible worlds.
"(b) The belief that the universe is improving and that good will ultimately triumph over evil."
Regardless of whether we look at it from the perspective of good versus evil, I particularly resonate with these two definitions.
What if instead of viewing the world as inherently good or evil, we viewed it in terms of optimization?
What if instead of asking "Why do bad things happen to good people?" we asked, "How might this experience ~optimize~ for the greatest benefit of the world?"
This perspective makes a lot more sense when we consider the definitions of "optimize:"
"(a) To make as effective, perfect, or useful as possible."
"(b) to make the best of."
In this view, it's no longer about being hopeful or optimistic in the traditional sense. It's not about thinking positively about our own unique situation.
We're challenged to ask bigger questions. Questions that go beyond just what our egos want to say about how an "ideal" situation looks.
We can think about optimization in a larger sense. We can consider how our own personal experience might be contributing to a larger whole.
It's often said "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." Thus, if we are all parts of a whole, it stands to reason that our personal "optimizations" are contributing to the whole...
And often in ways we can't know or comprehend.
When we step the ego aside for a little while, we have an opportunity to experience optimism in this new way. Experiences, however personal they are, however difficult they are, might just be a doorway through which the Universe is optimizing itself.
The interesting thing about optimization is that we can't know what it looks like. Some might say that an optimized car might go faster in a shorter time period. That is true. However, an optimized car also might use less resources, be lighter, recycle easier, be easier to drive, or just an awesome stereo.
All of those are ways in which optimization for a vehicle could happen. Yet if we only focus on making faster cars, we lose out on the possibility that there's many ways to optimize a car.
Or maybe, while trying to optimize a car a totally different technology is discovered... perhaps giving rise to a new supercomputer or flying saucer technology.
Take for example this story...
Alexander Fleming was a scientific researcher in the early 1900's who had been on vacation. After returning, then working, he set aside a stack of bacterial cultures.
When he returned to the laboratory, he discovered that one of those cultures had been contaminated with a fungus. He also noticed that all the bacteria around that fungus had been destroyed.
This was how one of the greatest disease-preventing agents in history was accidentally discovered. It was named "penicillin."
Sure there's lots of accidental discoveries in the world. It happens all the time. Perhaps that's because the Universe seems to have an optimizing nature about it.
We don't always understand what is being optimized. We don't always know why. But it seems that there's something about experiences that gives us the opportunity to optimize personally and as a collective.
Similarly, there's also different ways to optimize your life. You can't know exactly what "more confidence" will look like in your life. And yet, as you develop your confidence more fully, your life optimizes as a byproduct.
Maybe you engage more socially. Maybe you ask for a raise. Maybe you start a new business. Maybe you challenge your partner to live more fully and lovingly. Or maybe it will lead you to take a risk that leads to a new discovery about yourself.
All we know is that when we view the world through the lens of "optimization," it creates a land of mysterious and unknown possibilities.
Think about it. Give it a try. See what you discover.
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