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Age seems to decide if glass is half full

Old folks, like me, are sometimes accused of being pessimistic.

Young folks are more often optimistic, ready to go and impatiently waiting while old folks are running through a long mental list of potential problems. Is there any truth to that from your perspective?

Mark Twain summed pessimism up succinctly saying, "There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist."

Oscar Wilde said, a little more pessimistically: "When a pessimist has a choice between two evils, they take both."

That leaves me out as a pessimist, I hope, and I’ll try to demonstrate.

How can we older ones become a bit more optimistic? Realistically optimistic, that is. My theory is that we can become more optimistic by pretending that each new situation to be evaluated is a debate proposition and we have been given the optimistic, the supportive side. If you are going to make that case, you have to seek out some positive points and positive data to make your case. So as a result you are looking for the good aspects, and almost every conundrum has at least one that can be dug up.

People who have made the case for one side of an issue and then are forced by circumstances to speak for the opposite side, very rarely will ever be as convinced and outspoken again of their earlier position.


Because we tend to find what we are looking for. So attitude is so very important.

My conclusion from that happening leads me to believe that we can take any position and more frequently develop a positive attitude. The old half full glass of water example illustrates that as well. When we call the glass half full, we are speaking positively rather than saying it is half empty.

As you listen to politicians speak on an issue, you quickly discover that one party often takes one side and the other the opposing position. Both sides appear to be sincerely convinced that their side is the right one. But then every now and again, we’ve had it called to our attention, in specific instances, that there were unmentioned influences. Some may have had a large financial gift (re-election contributions most often) from the side they are favoring. Sometimes an ethnic or religious group is pressuring them to vote in their favor. Sometimes a little undercover hanky-panky gets uncovered. But, for the most part, both sides of the political issues get presented and compromise is very often the result.

Why should we attempt to be more optimistic?

Optimists tend to be liked more, don’t they? Too often, a person with pessimistic tendencies gets the reputation of being a wet blanket — a not-too-happy-person — and the wet-blanket attitude often dampens the enthusiasm of all involved. And some pessimists even give the impression that they want to be disliked, but those are few and far between.

What does a good business manager tend to do since they get job applications from individuals with different attitudes? The resulting interview will tell the business manager where the individual sits on the continuum. They tend to hire the optimist as a salesperson and the pessimist to work in the credit department. And they hire many more salespeople.

Pessimism is not as humorous a condition as optimism, but here is an attempt with these definitions:

Pessimism is contagious with our present financial problems; you can get it by watching the six o’clock news.

California is not a happy state right now financially, so it is easier to understand the California pessimist who carries a card saying, "In case of an accident, I’m not surprised."

The pessimist is a person who absorbs sunshine and radiates gloom.

The pessimist thinks the real purpose of sunshine is to cast shadows.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, worries the pessimist more than the optimist who tells them that they have nothing to worry about.

A pessimist has no motor; an optimist has no brakes.

I saved the best for last, with our present wars, growing debt and unemployment, if the pessimists aren’t satisfied today, they never will be.

Which one are you?

Bernie Hughes, Ed.D, is a retired educator who resides in Superior. He can be reached at