For a reason: Optimism versus Pessimism
We hear that one a lot don’t we? “Everything happens for a reason!” Indeed. I know I heard a few of you cringe as this may sound like nails on a black board for some. I do understand the irritation because these words have become conversation fillers that everyone turns to in awkward situations. Hence (I love using that word, makes me feel superior), this quite inspiring phrase has thereby been stripped of its original charm and beauty. Despite that, I do believe that things truly happen for a reason. We may not see those reasons right away or ever, but they are there. It all depends on our state of mind and general perception of things. Are you able to see through a mistake and still manage to fetch a solution? What can be learnt from a minor or large disaster? The Answer: a lot and on many levels.
Tea with the Optimist, the Pessimist and the Realist
William Arthur War once said that “the pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails" and somewhere in there, the opportunist drinks the half empty or half full glass of water. I disagree. Sure, the realist has both feet on the ground and will react more adaptively, probably avoiding a rougher path. However, I don’t like the way the optimist is depicted here (ok so I’m totally biased). Optimists aren’t necessarily blinded by their uplifting and positive outlook. They believe in the good and in the best of situations. They will get a learning experience from their loss and increase their knowledge and skills through it. So will the pessimists – though the ride will be more of a drag with them. It has also been demonstrated that optimistic individuals develop healthier relationships and enjoy better physical and mental health as well (Martinuzzi, 2006). Well obviously! If your dominant thoughts are continuously negative, why bother with anything at all? I view optimism as the foundation of internal drive. It's also more fun. How does this apply in the work force?
Think of successful leaders. Most succeed much better when demonstrating skills
stemming from an optimistic view point, which nurtures their drive to attain their objectives. They positively influence their followers and see much further than the bigger picture. They are the ones willing to take well calculated risks and are more open to change because of their optimistic outlook (Martinuzzi, 2006). Speaking of followers, an inspiring leader that I know well once said to me:
“The definition of good leadership is followership” -R. D.
That right there said it all. A great leader doesn't force others to come his or her way, they naturally want follow. They support the leader's views because he or she has earned their respect and thus, their trust. If you aren’t inspiring and willing to do the work WITH your followers, why should they be motivated? All that can be found in the way the leader, we, embrace change. The way we cope and the way we perceive. If all of these are tainted with pessimism…the story will end quickly.
Personally, I know I would not have achieved a quarter of my objectives if it wasn't for my positive outlook on life. Don't get me wrong, I am indeed human and do get down and still have some classic cases of insecurity like everyone else. Yet, generally speaking, I do believe in the good of a person by default, until proven wrong. I trust in life, sincerely. Perhaps that is why I am not afraid to think with my heart. Not only do I wear it on my sleeve, I throw it at people. Yes, I end up with a few bruises here and there as well as the occasional disappointment. But that hasn't stopped me yet. Why? Probably because I always believed the individuals were worth the effort at the time. Probably also because I always learnt something from each experience. No regrets. There goes my optimism again ;). One of my friends posted this quote on his Facebook wall recently, and I couldn't agree more as I find it to be optimism as its best:
"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out while loudly proclaiming : "Wow! That was one hell of a ride!'" -Unknown
Eeyor or Tigger?
All this being said, we have to, at some point, identify which type of approach we generally tend to have. Are we optimistic while facing a challenge or rather pessimistic? Randy Pausch (yes, quoting him again because he’s that brilliant) says we either fall in the Eeyor or Tigger category, both characters are pals of the famous Winnie The Pooh loving teddy bear. Eeyor is the sad donkey, slow and more of the pessimistic kind while Tigger is energetic, jumpy and happy. I find there to be a positive correlation between being a Tigger AKA having optimism and believing in “everything happens for a reason”. I am unquestionably a Tigger to the core. Even when I make (what I think are) huge mistakes, they turn out to be funny moments I usually end up laughing at later. Moments that continuously make me learn something about myself and others one way or another. Moments that widen my comfort zone and keep me on my toes. There is always something positive that comes out of any situation, pessimists just don't see it (Pfff! and they call optimists blind!). While I do think we may be born either Eeyors or Tiggers, I also believe that with time, each of these behaviors can be learnt. I just hope more of us will chose to learn from Tigger.
And in the end, the optimist CAN adjust the sails as well, but on our boat? We do it with a wink and a smile and a half full glass of water (fromage!).
La Vespa, creator of opportunities!
After last week's heavy yet purposeful posting, it seemed appropriate to carry on with a lighter topic today. That is, the fact that, not only do scooters get you from point A to Point B, they are also great conversation starters.
This summer, I have been riding my Vespa to work almost every day. Since I park it at exactly the same spot, my colleagues, who know my two-wheeler well enough now, often comment on the fact that they noticed it that morning or saw me park it. We also share a good chuckle when I answer that I got stuck in the pouring rain on my way home the night before (and I mean: water streaming down my face and dripping off my chin and my dress plastered on my skin kind of rain - in case you were wondering). I also know that when I mention that I drive a Vespa, this generally triggers many questions or surprised looks as others are often curious on what it involves to drive one. I know this because I used to be one of those people too, only I was a little more obsessed until I finally owned a Vespa myself. Last week however, I truly realized just how much conversation a Vespa can start and also, the opportunities this can create.
I was checking my emails when I noticed one coming from an acquaintance I hadn't heard from in a while. He was cycling the city that day and spotted my Vespa parked on the corner of the street. He thought: why not meet up for lunch and catch up? and emailed me shortly after. Go to lunch we did, two days later. I learnt a great deal about his new projects and what he had been working on. It was great timing as well since he was leaving in a few weeks to complete graduate studies in Spain. I would not have had the chance to congratulate him and wish him good luck in person had he not noticed the Vespa that day.
Another time, I was ready to go, strapping on my helmet when a stranger came by and started asking me questions about the Vespa. I'm always cautious when this happens; I place one hand on my purse and check my surroundings in case the person talking is trying to distract me while someone else grabs my wallet or cell phone. But no. This kind person simply wanted to know how it was to get around on one of these things and shared that his sister drove one in Lebanon, a much different environment from that of the 514. He said that he had seen me park in the morning as he walked in the building and now, saw me about to take off as he was walking out the building. "It couldn't have been better timing had we planned it" he said, as random encounters often are indeed perfectly timed without effort.
Similarly, two girls also approached me as I was getting ready to leave and asked me where I had gotten my bright red and white star helmet and a few other questions. There are also the comments that I overhear as I wait at a red light: "I like your style!" said one person in his car, "and she's riding in heels too!" said one woman to her friend on a sidewalk terrace as they were enjoying a drink. Once I was driving next to two girls in a lovely convertible car. As I stopped at the red light, they hadn't pulled up next to me yet so I turned around to see where they had gone and fell face to face with the driver snapping a picture of me. Both girls shouted how "amazing" my "ride" was while frantically gesturing at it. I bursted into laughter and said that I liked the music they were playing. The light turned green and we were off again.
These little moments that stem from the fact that I drive a Vespa (or something of the sort!) allow me to interact with Montrealers quite easily, making the city feel like a small village. The truth is, the streets we ride on are a stage. Everyone is watching us, looking at us and even judging us perhaps, as it is quite normal for human nature. La Vespa is a tough little cookie being heavier and more robust than a Vino scooter. Yet, it remains approachable and captivating, which explains the buzz it consequently generates. Just like a Ferrari that attracts attention, a Vespa does the same, just a little differently!
"Think different" - Steve Jobs
Off the bucket list!
Hello dear friends,
It is time for my weekly post and today, I decided to talk about inspiration and bucket lists. A topic that came to me as I was enjoying a fresh pitcher of sangria and many delicious plates of rich tasting tapas with a friend. Inspiration is a theme that is continuously ongoing in my life and is a personal goal of mine to achieve on a daily basis as a career guidance consultant. We were talking about these lists of things to do before running out of time (ahh mortality! It makes everything more beautiful because any moment may be our last). Both of us agreed that living in accordance to this list and being in the moment would surely lead to a life with no or less regrets. My friend asked me what was on my list and at that moment, my mind became blank as my memory was scanning the archives of all significant life events. I realized just how much I had crossed off my list, counting childhood dreams:
What drives you?
What inspires you in life? What made you get out of bed this morning, apart the alarm clock you wanted to smash with a hammer? What are those secret goals or dreams that you have perhaps pushed in the back of your mind while saying to yourself: "one day..." Hmmm. A stimulating yet scary question this can be, depending on just how much you decided to get done on that bucket list by now. In Cegep, I was once moved by something a classmate had said during her oral presentation: "Life is now". I thought wow, it truly is. Why wait to compliment someone? Why save that dress for a special occasion? Why not greet a friend with a hug if you feel like it? Why not have a Laura Secord ice cream cone with an extra piece of chocolate on top?
Just to be clear, this happened back in 1999 before the YOLO madness started justifying all kinds of absurd and careless behaviour. I am also NOT saying to spend all your money and act impulsively. Rather, using good judgement, living in the moment and making choices that make you genuinely happy. From that moment I heard those words, a switch turned on and fueled my already present drive to live life to the fullest - whatever that meant to me. I base my decisions on will I regret not having done this, yes or no? The answer is usually very clear. What moment made you realize that you must enjoy the little things as much as possible? As my friend and I discussed, he mentioned that sometimes, it unfortunately takes an illness or other sorts of negative life events to make us stop and realize that life truly is short. Too true. That being said, let us not wait for such news to hit us.
What's you carrot?
I would recommend for everyone to write down on paper what their goals are, even the craziest ones and start assessing the possibilities of making them happen. There is something concrete and confrontational about doing this. You will be face to face with that list of recent or dusty dreams you had put away for so long. Of course, as you read through it, you will quickly realize what the obstacles are: money, time, distance, competition, "this makes no sense", adversity, etc. Yet, I truly believe that if there are important dreams on that list, it is imperative to, at least, review them and see what place they hold in your life. If the dream is big and important enough, the obstacles become only a matter of time. Keep your eyes and heart set on the carrot at the finish line while going through the journey. If you start losing sight of the carrot, either you don't want it bad enough (which is also something you may discover along the way and that will liberate you as you realize it wasn't for you after all) or you need help.
Think of a succesful moment when you achieved one of your goals. Looking back at it now, who would you want to thank for it? Great success is rarely achieved alone. There were probably many key players who helped along the way, who believed in you (even when you didn't), who cheered you on. There is also that one person who will sacrifice his/her own wants to help you reach yours. Don't forget these individuals. Cherish and protect their respect and loyalty to you. Kind souls are precious and create positive energy in your life. They are the cheerleaders in your path and will help you face adversity and celebrate your glory when you get there. Give back to them when you can. Now, back to your list - who could help you reach your goal? Will you let a lousy phone call get in the way of it? What key will open the door? Even if 4 years stand between you and that key, will you give up or fight for the key which will take you to the carrot? What will it take for you to quit on the carrot?
This is not to say that we can't capitalize on failures. Actually, sometimes we learn a lot more by NOT achieving certain goals (Randy Pausch, last lecture, check it out on youtube if you have time). If after many attempts and endless efforts we still cannot reach the carrot, we will have the satisfaction of being able to say: "I tried absolutely EVERYTHING within my power" and there are no regrets in that. Randy Pausch also said that "the best of the gold is at the bottom of barrels of crap" aka it takes hard work and loads of unpleasant situations to get there. So you may get all the help in the world, but if you don't have the discipline, stamina and perseverance required to dig through the barrel...all that help goes to waste. You have to be the main active agent in this journey. You may not have the priviledge of getting support from those cheerleaders I was describing above. That is when you will truly learn to know your limits. If your own engine stops, how many times will you be able to start it again? Or worse even, what if instead of cheerleaders, you have people crashing into your path with negative thoughts and drain your energy away? What then? Are we not strong enough to take a step back and focus? Will we not get back up and try again? Will we not smile and remember the carrot? Oh yes. Yes we will. Like ballet pointe shoes that look so delicate. Beneath the pristine pink satin lies a hard enclosure in the front end of the shoe (called a "box") to support the toes and help the dancers balance. To achieve our goals, we can be like those ballet pointe shoes: soft and beautiful, but then demonstrate a rougher edge to endure hard work, discipline and pain. Both sides based on true passion.
It is never too late to realize what is important and fight for it. I wish to share this fuel with you and if I have the slightest chance of setting the wheels in motion or spark something for just one person, that is something else off my own bucket list I can cross off.
P.S. The friend with whom I discussed this bucket list topic crossed this goal off his own list last night: riding in a Dodge Challenger. Important detail of the goal: it had to be the black with red stripes one. Done! ...and thanks for the inspiration! ;)
The weather: usually considered a smalltalk subject for other citizens of the world. However, in Montreal and close regions, the weather is the most talked about topic of conversation. We discuss it, we analyze it, we app it, we track it, we pray for it to change, we pray for it to stay the same and finally, we curse it.
How have we become so dependent on the weather you ask? why, because in the context of a northern country where six months out of twelve are cold, thus trapping us inside our homes, the warm months are very scarce and precious. They are counted and scheduled with tons of activities which we hope will enable us to take full advantage of the outdoors, fresh air and the radiant sun which we miss so much in winter. The Montreal weather thereby becomes a friend and an enemy all at once mostly because of its rapidly changing nature and us not being able to rely on it for over two hours. Make that ONE hour. Never mind that all roads are barricaded with orange construction signs, (Montreal: where the sound of jackhammers and drills are synonyms of warm weather) forcing us to re-route or make a wrong turn and get lost. We are willing to put up with even that, but do not mess with the strained relationship we have with the sun. We will protect it and get defensive with mother nature as we will do anything for those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.
Those few months where we even bother to buy outdoor and patio furniture, stock up on BBQ supplies, schedule our planting weekend accordingly (so as to save our new flowers and vegetation from that last frosty night that pops out of nowhere), purchase sunblock that we will never manage to finish (but that we will recycle for that trip down south), new bathing suits and complete a full closet rotation to adjust to this new pleasant season (I have MORE summer outfits than winter ones - it should be the other way around). That being said, it is not cool for mother nature to toy with our emotions and diagnose us all with a mild version of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Lately, Montreal has been resembling what seems like London-like weather including rain, fog and of course, the weather status I hate most: overcast. In my book, overcast is the worst: it LOOKS and FEELS like it's going to rain but not a drop of water falls (sky constipation) meanwhile the sun is completely gone and shining full force in other parts of the world. That being said, you can clearly tell that I am no exception and am demonstrating my Montreal weather obsession by blogging about it.
I think I speak for most of us when I say that we would just like to have one full week of sunshine without having to carry an umbrella around or check our phones and the weather channel for updates. Some cities have the luxury of not having to engage in this kind of neurotic behavior simply because they know that, most fo the time, the sun will be out or the rain will be out but either way - one weather status dominates and the individuals of that city prepare in accordance. Some might argue that the basic concept of this situation is then the lack of control we are experiencing. I beg to differ...
Why would we be seeking control over something we never had control on to begin with? No. What we seek are sunny days, period. Days where we need sunglasses until 7pm, days where we get annoying tan lines (but are secretly happy we got a tan anyway), days when we bless the wind for it releaving us from the scorching heat, days when I can take my Vespa and feel the warmth of my banana seat. Nothing more, nothing less.
My name is Ivana. I love photography and meeting people. I hold a Master's in counselling psychology and work as a career consultant. Music is my fuel and an important source of energy in my life. I drive my vespa around the city and I love what I do! :) About this blog: me on my artistic soap box!
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