Vagabonding pt3: आशावाद Aashaavaad: optimism. People on your Journey.
February 17, 2019
In my last post around preparing for vagabonding, I wrote about the amazing people you will almost certainly meet along the way and it got me thinking about the beauty of good friendship and mutual support.
After receiving a bit of negative feedback from someone on Facebook, I found myself reflecting on why some people see the world in a positive and optimistic light, whilst others seem to look at the world with pessimism and bitterness and how these relationships can have an affect on your mindset during your preparations for the journey and when you are on the road.
I think its important to have an awareness of these opposite ways in which people view the world, especially in the months leading up to any long-term travels. There are those who might want to block your path.
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” — Oscar Wilde
Support and love from a fellow human being are truly uplifting things and can really stimulate you to take your next step on a big adventure.
I remember when I was in Africa, teaching in a small jungle village, I had been there for several months and was contemplating coming home. I had suffered a lot of ill health due to a mild dose of malaria and was feeling pretty fed up. Another volunteer who was from Ethiopia sat down with me and reminded me of all the wonderful adventures we had had and the joy on the children’s faces as we sang songs at the end of class. I was reminded of the friendship and kindness the village people had shown towards me and she then asked me the simple question: are you really willing to give all this up because of a bit of diarrhea?
Of course it was more than just a dose of the trots, but I knew what she was saying, That lady from Ethiopia was reminding me of why I was there and although I felt rough at the time I would regret it later if I went home.
The support from someone I had met on my travels then stimulated me to make the right decision and stay on in the Gambia and thank god I did; it was amazing.
What I’m trying to say is, most of the people you will meet on the road while taking on something massive like vagabonding around the world, will be the fuel you need to keep going. In my experience human kindness and friendship are amazing qualities and on the road: you are rarely really alone.
We must not forget that the journey begins when your preparations get underway and its at this stage where the danger lies. This is the period when the trap can be laid by concerned family members or bogus friends. This is where any sign of weakness can result in your falling for the rhetoric from the pessimists and the naysayers who will use this preparation period to change your mind.
There will still be those who think your decision to take off and travel the world is totally crazy. Family members, naysayers, friends who are transferring their own personal fears and also those who following their own agenda; will tell you you need to conform to social norms, settle down and live a conservative life. ‘If you go travelling you will be raped, robbed, murdered or sold off into slavery’.
After making my decision to go vagabonding some have said to me, why don’t you settle down into a nice job and live a normal life instead of this need to run away.
But why is it that some people see the world as full of incredible possibilities and something to be embraced and explored, whilst others see things as set, and not to be messed around with so they can be kept safe and ‘normal’.
Gustavo Razzetti investigated this subject in his blog about personal growth. He asks: why are some people optimists and others pessimists?
The Bright and Dark Sides of Optimism and Pessimism
Why we got the glass-half-full metaphor all wrong
“Our perception of life is a matter of perspective. We were taught that pessimists see the glass as half-empty while optimists see it as half-full.
I’ve always liked to challenge truisms — metaphors like this oversimplify life. It makes us approach optimism and pessimism as opposite and fixed concepts — you are forced to choose a side. Life is not static, but fluid. You can drink it down and then refill the glass.
Our society worships optimists and stigmatizes pessimists — people will like you or reject you depending on your view. However, this right or wrong approach is deceiving. Both optimism and pessimism have bright and dark sides — what you do matters more than how you see the glass.
Optimism Rules the World
Optimism wasn’t always the ruler. Historically, it was associated with simplistic and unrealistic people, especially in literature such as Porter’s “Pollyanna.” Psychologists, like Freud, dismissed it considering it ‘illusory denial.’
Since the 1960s, there’s been a change in sentiment supported by growing research that correlates positivity to being successful. Positivity became king and we, inadvertently, became its servants.
Many psychologists classify the population as predominantly optimistic — some claiming 80% of people are optimistic, others stating that 60% of us are somewhat optimistic. This seems an optimistic appraisal to me. Some experts agree — they believe that optimism itself may affect the validity of research on positivity.
Research shows that optimism is correlated with increased life expectancy, better health, increased success in academia, work, and sports, and greater chances of recovery from adversity. However, many experts think most studies can’t discriminate cause from effect. Does thinking positively make us healthier? Or is it that being healthier lead us to think positively?
Optimism is a broad personality trait — it makes us believe that good things will be plentiful in the future, and bad ones scarce. But, those who weren’t born on the right side, can they learn to be more optimistic?
This simple question creates many discrepancies. Some researchers believe that yes, we can.
The Half-Empty Frame
“Optimism is not simply the absence of pessimism, and well-being is not simply the absence of helplessness.” — Christopher Peterson
Alison Ledgerwood doesn’t buy that most of us see the glass half-full — she believes that our perception of the world tends to lean toward negative thoughts.
Research by this social psychologist proposes a fixed approach to the glass dilemma. We either have a ‘gain’ or a ‘loss’ frame — we see the upside or the downside in things. Even worse, our mind gets stuck in the negative more than in the positive.
The Optimism Bias
“What day is it?” asked Pooh.
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.”
― A.A. Milne
Seeing the glass-half-full has many benefits, but there’s a downside that most optimists miss.
Optimists pay less attention to detail and fail to seek new information to challenge their rosy views leading to poor decisions. That explains why many hiring decisions go wrong. Recruiters favor candidates who look more excited and enthusiastic — both indicators of optimistic employees.
The Optimism Bias is one of the two key factors why we inaccurately calculate big projects — we tend to underestimate both time and cost. Some Governments, like the British, are now adding an extra percentage by default to offset overly positive estimations.
“Most people have the will to win, few have the will to prepare to win.” — Bob Knight
Optimism and pessimism are not antagonist concepts but rather the two sides of the same coin — we need both to live a more balanced life.
Stop Looking at the Glass
“Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.” — Henry James
Do you see the glass-half-full or half-empty?
Calling people — yourself included — either optimistic or pessimist gets them stuck. It forces us to adopt one view rather than switching between them as necessary.
Being a pessimist isn’t necessarily bad — it’s what you do with that pessimism that matters. When you overplay either a positive or negative view, that’s when you limit your possibilities.
Integrate both negativity and positivity
A positive approach to life is not just about seeing only the bright side but accepting the two sides — both optimism and pessimism have advantages and disadvantages.
Positive thinking encourages us to take needed risks and expand our horizons. But it also leads us to ignore life’s dangers or exaggerate our own capabilities. Negative thinking can be detrimental when it takes over and darkens how we see the world. But a little bit of worry and doubt can keep you on your toes — a dose of “defensive pessimism” can help you neutralize the optimism bias.
Life is fluid — empty the glass (and fill it again)
A positive life is more about what we do than the labels we wear.
As positive psychologist Suzanne Segerstrom said, “Optimists are happy and healthy not because of who they are but because of how they act.”
In philosophy, Meliorism is a concept which drives our ability to improve the world through alteration — we can produce outcomes that are considered better than the original phenomenon.
Meliorism doesn’t mean ignoring the world’s evils. But to accept life’s setbacks as challenges to overcome. This joie de vivre energizes us — it boosts our desire and enthusiasm. Rather than observing if the glass is half-full or empty, we learn to enjoy it. We drink life and then find ways to refill it.
Pessimists complain that the world is hard; optimists see the bright side and ignore real challenges — they expect positive thinking will change things for the better. Negativity reminds of us being realistic; positivity gives us hope — we need both.
Our actions, not perception, help us improve the world. Idealizing things is avoidance. The same with being negative. Life is not easy — focusing on your progress will keep you motivated. You must recover the joy and pleasure in doing the work.
Enjoy the glass — what you do with it matters more than how you see the glass”
Some people enjoy taking risks and trying new things. Others are not adventurous; they are
cautious and prefer to avoid danger.
“People are of two categories, either conservative or adventurous. People who take risk have big dreams and are determined to reach their goals. On the contrary, another group of people do not like to get into challenging situations.
Remind yourself as to why you want to go vagabonding. Family are bound to worry but they will come round. True friends will support you and although you will miss them on the road, you know they will be there waiting when you get back.
My friends are brilliant and supportive and they understand me. I will miss them when I go but equally know I will also meet some amazing people as I travel the world.
Its important to think about the different reasons as to why some people might not want you to go vagabonding. For some it might just take them too far out of their comfort zone.
My mum, for instance has has expressed her unhappiness around me going but a mother will always worry about her son, despite her son being 53.
I have been through a lot of strong experiences over the last few years and I feel at this stage I know who has my back, who supports me and who my true friends are. Alternatively, I know those who are just acquaintances and who have not got my best interest at heart.
Friendships and amazing people will see me through my vagabonding travels. And I say to anybody else who is setting off on a vagabonding adventure; remember, your friends, old and new, as well as your own resolve, will be the things that see you through.