It’s not what you think it is.
Anyone who knows me in real life (or even who’s connected with me on social media) will tell you that I’m somewhat of an eternal optimist, for better or worse. I choose to live my life looking at the silver lining. Searching for the “frosting” on the cake. Looking at the bigger picture.
On many occasions, people have asked me how I stay so positive all the time. The truth, the real truth, is that I don’t.
The general assumption is that, since I can look at the positive side of any situation, I must somehow be avoiding reality. Perhaps I’m too naive or too inexperienced or too used to wearing rose-colored glasses to understand the truth. Perhaps I’m so blinded by what I want to see that I won’t or can’t see the “real world.”
The truth — the real truth — is that I’ve experienced the bad along with the good. I’ve had my heart broken into a million pieces. I’ve questioned how I was going to get up the next day. I’ve coped with my problems in destructive ways.
I’ve wondered if I had the emotional capacity to push forward. I’ve stared into an empty glass of whisky and wondered what I did wrong. And financially, I’ve wondered how I was going to put enough gas in my car to get home.
I’ve needed to choose between just laying down or standing up and fighting. I’ve needed to look at the big picture and realize that the life I want isn’t going to appear in front of me. Happiness isn’t just going to materialize.
I choose this reality for myself on a daily basis. Perhaps I look around at the world and notice that most people are miserable. Most people are upset. Most people hate their jobs, their commutes, their cars, and their clothes.
Have you ever sat in traffic and really looked around? I mean really, truly, looked at people? It’s depressing and bleak.
So many people are beaten down and discouraged and hopeless and just sad. They have broken dreams and broken hopes and broken lives. They live their routine and anything outside of this reality is a fantasy. Anyone who’s truly happy must not be living in the same world as they are because happiness just doesn’t exist. Does it?
So then why can some people really, honestly be happy? How is it possible that I stay positive as often as I do? There’s one simple word that sums up one’s ability to be as much of an eternal optimist as is realistic: Perspective.
Perspective, the ability to discern what’s a “big deal” and what isn’t. The ability to pick your battles, so to speak. The ability to see things how they are on a larger scale, and not how they appear to be in a small bubble.
The reality of the earth and the universe and the man-made conflicts our species creates for itself daily. And the ability to recognize these issues for what they are (or aren’t).
Perspective is the reason why I don’t get stressed out and become snappy toward the people I love. It’s why I can separate the stressful parts of my day from the enjoyable parts. It’s the reason why I can unwind after work, go to dinner, and forget about the tensions of the day without letting them infiltrate my down time.
Keeping things in perspective and understanding that we drive home in a car much of the world will never own, to a home much of the world will never live in, and eat food much of the world will never taste, is a great first step to complaining less and living more.
To stop noticing all of the things we lack and start appreciating all the things we have. To stop wasting time hating the people who hate us, and spend more time loving the people who love us. To stop looking for problems and start searching for solutions together.
To live, to love, to experience the journey. To turn up the volume on that song you love during your morning commute, because nobody said you’re required to be miserable on your way to work. To belt that song out so loudly that your windows explode.
To smile to the sulking person next to you. To say hello to the person passing by you in the grocery store. To pay for someone’s coffee when they’re behind you in line. Nobody ever said you’re required to be miserable.
The secret to being an eternal optimist is simple: you choose it for yourself.
You will become depressed, you will be sad, you will face challenges in life, but you will know each and every time that you will come out stronger on the other side. If this is you, congratulations! You can pick up your optimist membership card at the door.
You can be happy — eventually — regardless of what you’re going through. Life will test you and challenge you, but it need not beat you. Always remember: tough times don’t last, but tough people do.
This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: The Secret To Eternal Happiness Comes Down To This ONE Word.