On: Optimism, with Belligerence

It’s Monday morning, it’s the start of a new week which would struggle to not be better than the last one and I’m wondering about the practicalities of shooting a mime. Should you use a silencer as a mark of respect? Is that cultural appropriation? Such a minefield these days. Answers in the form of an interperative performance in the visual medium of your choice.

Quite a lot of what I’ve written up until this point has been fairly situational, they haven’t necessarily been about me. By this I don’t mean to say that I’ve been writing about someone else, rather that I’ve been writing about situations that dealing with and how I’m approaching the problem at hand. This week I thought I’d invite you into the slightly more esoteric corners of my mind, the ones that don’t get too many visitors.
I’m not going to go as far as saying that I have a fully developed philosophy towards life, certainly not one that should be followed by anyone else. But there are a few ideas that have occurred with more regularity than others and might, if you squint suitably, be mistaken for something resembling underlying principles. It is my intention to shed some light on some of the more significant ones over the next few days.

One thing that probably comes across from this blog is that I am not the most self-aware of individuals. Even in the short time that I’ve been writing I feel like I’ve learnt quite a lot about myself. I’m not going to attempt to define it as progress in any sense as I think it would be better to say I’m more aware of how much I know that I don’t know. In keeping with this theme some of the items that will be discussed actually have their origins in the minds of other people. I am not self-aware, but I am aware enough to recognise an idea with merit when it is put in front of me. If you recognise your own work over this series, you have my thanks.

When it all comes down to it, I’m fundamentally optimistic in my outlook towards things. A phrase that has been used to describe me is that of being a “Belligerent Optimist”. Which at first sounds like it shouldn’t work. It often doesn’t. But then it does again. It’s not necessarily the most efficient system but thankfully this isn’t an exploration of efficiency. I may not be the most up front and obvious with the optimism, except when I am (more on that later), but it will always show through.

If I’m hit with a setback, in whatever circumstances, my attitude will invariably swing towards trying to solve it. I might go through a few emotions on the way, some defined some just generically bad, but it will always end up at trying to solve it. It very rarely occurs to me that I won’t be able to solve a problem. From a young age I’ve had an attitude that can best be described as “If at first you don’t succeed, bloody try harder”. It’s great for short term objectives, as it can give me the drive to overcome one off hurdles or obstacles where I might otherwise be put off.

The downside to this approach is that it tends to gate any plans in relatively short terms. It puts the focus on the obstacle being overcome rather than whatever it is on the other side of it. This may actually be part of why I’ve never really made a long term plan, I’ve always had goals that had a natural next step. GCSEs led to College, which led to Uni which is where the system fell  down. That part of the plan doesn’t come naturally, there isn’t a single right answer. It’s like finishing the scripted part of a game and hitting the open world section, except there isn’t a helpful old man with a quest marker above his head to help guide me along the path.

Close Enough

Adding in a healthy dose of belligerence to proceedings has always helped me with the short term goals that I’ve had. Whatever the external factor (often someone telling me I can’t do it) that sets my focus on a particular goal, I can be incredibly focused and single minded in the short term in achieving that goal. This has helped me achieve quite a lot at work, often to prove the point that it can be done and someone else is just lazy. When the exceptional circumstance is finished with, I can quickly find myself becoming bored of going back to what I had been doing before.

This mindset works against me as often as it does to my benefit. I’m getting better at controlling it, but there have been times where proving a particular point has become far more important than whatever I’m working on. Whilst I’ve got a pretty high hit rate in the point proving department, I suspect there are a few that have cost me more than whatever vindication I felt by proving them. As I grow older, I do feel as though I act on these impulses less, I’m aware of times where I have made a conscious decision to not let someone bother me. I’ve made the decision that the fight isn’t worth having.

For anyone now worried that I’m not sounding like me, panic not. There will always be those individuals I meet that I can’t help but feel compelled to take down a notch or three. And if I’m the other side of sobriety? All bets are off. And the new ones are on. First one to take a selfie with a tiger on top of the Eiffel tower wins? Bonus points if it’s actually the pretend tower in Las Vegas.

I think the main reason that I sometimes appear to force an optimistic outlook is what is going on in my own head. My cynicism and pessimistic point of view is by far the biggest barrier to my optimism. This may sound odd, it probably is. I’m generally, if not always, able to detach myself from a situation and view it objectively. I think is in partly how my brain is wired, but it had been reinforced by the education I’ve received. The study of the impossible to find what is possible. Anything is possible until it isn’t. And even then it might be, you just haven’t found the atmospheric conditions.

There are of course other times where I’ll evaluate a scenario and decide that it’s utterly hopeless. These are the scenarios where the outcome is fixed to a certainty short of anything less than a miracle. In an odd way, I’ve found that approaching these situations with a grin and a joke is much more effective than getting wound up and stressed about it. Whether that grin is an affection or natural, it can be pretty powerful.

The basis of far too many of my life choices!

The biggest advantage of starting from a relatively negative position is that it’s pretty easy to find something to be optimistic. Sometimes it can be as simple as knowing that today will eventually be over and that tomorrow brings with it a whole new set of possibilities. Other times, maybe after a drink or two, it’s the simple belief that you’re smart enough to not do anything with permanent consequences (generally doing well on this count, practice makes perfect).

On a more fundamental level, I know that the one person I can always rely on is me. Those times where I do let myself down generally make for a valuable lesson or a hilarious story, on some occasions both. If it’s got nothing else to fall back on, my optimism can always fall back on that. As I’ve said, I rarely feel that I won’t succeed with a goal, which to this point has served me pretty well.

Sometimes I’m optimistic on this basis alone. Other times it is because I’ve simply decided “Why not?”. But that is a train of thought for another day.

As always, hope you’ve found this interesting. If anything strikes a chord get in touch, send me a message or leave a comment. Get involved. Until next time.


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