How to Be Optimistic in Life

Cindy with hands on her face. Tokyo, 2017

How can we live without optimism? Optimism is the elixir of life!

What is optimism?

Optimism: The mind-state that today will be a great day, and tomorrow will be an (even greater) day.

But is optimism a trait that we’re born with, or something that can be cultivated?


The rational optimist

Cindy with hands on her face. Tokyo, 2017

My theory: We can teach ourselves to be optimistic.

Ideas:

  1. When shit hits the fan, think logically how you can transform that downside into a positive. For example, you lost your job, and you fear economic ruin. But realize that you won’t realistically starve to death— you can probably reach out to family, friends, and relatives. And the positive of losing a job: you have the unique opportunity to pursue something new, and you’re no longer trapped with your (crappy) boss.
  2. Logical optimism in technology: The internet, Amazon prime, Google, smartphones offer us so much power. Almost unlimited potential and power. We can start our own business from home, we essentially have unlimited online cloud storage for “free” (Dropbox, Google Drive, Google Photos, Flickr). Technology gives us more freedom and flexibility in life (we don’t need to sign long-term leases, we can use Airbnb). We can survive without a car (use Uber/public transportation). We can learn anything via YouTube or a simple Google search. Technology and globalization has made all products (clothing, cameras, phones, tablets, laptops, tools) ridiculously cheap. At this point we can afford all the basics of everyday living, with very little money.
  3. Affordability of food: Assuming you eat nothing but eggs and chicken, food is very cheap. Even if you did suffer economic downfall, you will not starve to death. You could also probably get food stamps, and get free food from the food bank.
  4. Difficulties in life awaken the giant within us: Difficulty is what stirs us to innovate, create new and revolutionary ideas, and allows us to push our own human ingenuity. A life with too much comfort is the road to waste (Roman saying).
  5. Optimism in medical technology: We no longer have to fear dying of most basic diseases and health outbreaks. Most of the major diseases have been eradicated by scientists and doctors. Even if you suffer a catastrophic accident that requires surgery, most hospitals will still operate on you. You might be given a massive debt bill afterwards, but you will still be alive. And most countries allow for bankruptcy, which will allow you not to become indentured to your debt for the rest of your life.

Optimism in art

Tokyo urban landscape, 2017
Tokyo urban landscape, 2017

Many of us don’t have a lot of freedom when it comes to our jobs, or our economics (money, debt, etc). However assuming we have a laptop, a phone, or a tablet — we can create unlimited digital art (all for free!)

No matter what our situation is in life we can always be optimistic towards the future of the art we are going to make.

Looking up. Tokyo urban landscape, 2018
Looking up. Tokyo urban landscape, 2018

With free apps, you can make your own music, make your own films, make your own photos, make your own paintings, drawings, and upload and share it for free (Facebook, Youtube, Instagram). You can blog and share your ideas for free via WordPress or Medium.

To me, a good way to find more joy in life is to look forward to waking up in the morning, and thinking to yourself:

“What kind of art am I going to make today?”


Create like a child

Red selfie. Tokyo, 2017
Red selfie. Tokyo, 2017

To stay optimistic in your art, approach making art like a child.

Let us get rid of the silly notions of “good” and “bad” art. A child never judges their artwork as good or bad, simply boring or fun.

Frog garbage can. Tokyo, 2017
Frog garbage can. Tokyo, 2017

We are all born artists, yet we lose our faith in ourselves as we get older. When we get older, snobby art critics, overly critical teachers, and modern society tells us that only a select few can be “Artists”.

I believe that everyone who makes art (makes photos, makes pictures, makes paintings, dances, sings, etc) is an artist.

Umbrella Dutch angle composition. Tokyo, 2017
Umbrella Dutch angle composition. Tokyo, 2017

Once you realize that you are (already) an artist, doesn’t that give you infinite optimism towards the future of your evolution as an artist?


Personal evolution

Another thing I’m optimistic about: knowing that you are constantly evolving (yes, even right now).

Evolution isn’t a process that happens over thousands of years. It happens every moment. Except, it is very hard to see the changes because the tempo is so slow.

This is why I like this concept of “personal evolution”— you can evolve at every moment, in any domain.

You can evolve by teaching yourself new things, by having new experiences, and by changing your thinking. You can evolve by making new forms of art, by remixing old things and making them new, or by arranging things.

This is why I am anti-genre in art. Don’t put any limits on yourself. Make photos, make paintings, make sculptures, and make any form of visual art which delights you. Shoot — even experiment with interpretive dance if that is your thing.


Be artistic in the present moment

Editing photos on iPad and Lightroom CC
Editing photos on iPad and Lightroom CC

Don’t think of making art as some grand thing that you must do when you have several hours of free time.

Make art right now. Even if you’re stuck at work, spend some time dreaming up of new artistic ideas, and just jot down your ideas on a piece of paper or write it in your phone.

Be subversive. If your passion is writing, send emails to yourself with your own poetry or blog post ideas.

Blue clock. London, 2018
Blue clock. London, 2018

If you’re done with work but still stuck at the office, use that time to study art (wikiart.org). Or use your 15 minute office breaks as a chance to walk around the block, and make photos on your camera or phone.


Pessimism is a waste of time and energy

Flash skull

Regardless of our situation in life, we all have the power to retrain our mind to be optimistic.

The opposite of optimism is pessimism — the dejected feeling that no matter how hard we try, we cannot be happy or change the circumstances of our life.

Black glove street photograph. London, 2018
Black glove street photograph. London, 2018

But if we think about it rationally — why waste your time, energy, and mental thinking being negative and pessimistic? Pessimism is like mental flagellation — whipping yourself to feel more pain, rather than trying to figure out positive solutions.


Make something everyday

Annette and Cindy on escalator. London, 2018
Annette and Cindy on escalator. London, 2018

My top solution to being more optimistic in life is to just make a new thing everyday.

Work on a new poem, a new musical track (Garage band), or make new photos. If you don’t have the opportunity to go out and shoot photos or paint, use your time at home to create a slideshow of your old photos (iMovie), or perhaps as an opportunity for you to design your own photography book digitally (iBooks Author, Adobe Indesign).

Selfie and yellow truck. London, 2018
Selfie and yellow truck. London, 2018

Smile, your life is full of infinite possibilities. Look up, there is nothing but sky. You got no glass ceiling holding back your creative spirit!

Tokyo urban landscape, 2017
Tokyo urban landscape, 2017

BE BOLD,
ERIC

PHILOSOPHY

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