Would you define yourself more as an optimist or pessimist? Maybe you find that it’s easier to be optimistic about certain things but have a harder time in other areas? Perhaps you’re a pessimist simply because you find optimism to be impractical, too idealistic or dreamy. Maybe it just isn’t as simple as being one or the other. Maybe we’re all just a little bit of both.
One of the defining concepts of Kabbalah is something called the Three Column System. Put very simply, it says that our world is made up of three forces: the force of sharing (positive), the force of receiving (negative), and the balancing of the two which is the desire to receive in order to share. At any given time, we are living in one of the two extremes, but our spiritual work helps us to balance them to bring us into the energy of desiring to receive in order to share.
When we shift our consciousness to optimism, we are better able to give of ourselves and our light. When we do, we receive blessings that are meant for us which increase our joy and inspiring us to give even more. We are then existing in the energy of desiring to receive in order to share, and the Light flows effortlessly through us. This is the space in which we live our most fulfilled, joyous, and radiant lives. It sounds simple enough, right? Yes, and also, not quite. As the kabbalists teach, the most important things are easy to understand but difficult to practice.
We can start with how we view the world. Here’s where our optimism and pessimism come in.
The defining characteristic of a pessimist is that they tend to believe that bad events are not only likely to occur but that they will last a very long time. They believe that negative things will undermine everything that they do and that it’s primarily their fault. A pessimist’s mantra could be something like “nothing ever works out for me,” or “I’m so irresponsible.”
An optimist, on the other hand, thinks about misfortune in the opposite way. They believe failure is a temporary setback, that the causes are confined to this one case, and that it is not their fault, per se, but a chance at growth. Optimists are unfazed by defeat. Confronted by a bad situation, they perceive it as an opportunity and they try harder.
The difference between our pessimistic (negative) and optimistic (positive) tendencies is nothing but a thought.
Everything in our lives, everything we physically see and experience, begins with a thought, a belief, or an idea. That thought, belief, or idea eventually will become the words we speak, and those words eventually become our actions and create our entire experience. There are real consequences to every thought we have, therefore, being optimistic or a pessimistic affects the outcome of our life—quite literally.
This is what makes optimism an incredible ally. When we are in a positive state of mind, that is the energy we are actively drawing to us. Focusing on positivity allows for more positivity to populate our lives. And it may start small.
Let’s say you’re walking into work and the pessimistic thoughts are creeping in, such as, “What frustrating thing awaits me today?” or “I totally forgot to send that email!” You might normally rush to your desk, assess any fires, and get to work quickly, beating yourself up along the way.
So let’s rewind. You’re walking into work, you hear the negative thoughts, and instead, you view them as little reminders to shift your awareness. You notice the negativity and replace the cascade of pessimistic thoughts with one positive one; “I can handle whatever comes my way today.” Suddenly, you can breathe a bit easier, you say hello to your co-workers on your way in, and you arrive more peacefully to your desk, extending that attitude to everyone you’re in contact with.
Nothing major changed, there was no big miracle, you still may have forgotten to send that email, and you probably had a few frustrating things to manage, but you did so positively. When we’re in this consciousness, we don’t identify with negativity. We meet each challenge with presence, and when it’s complete, we let it go. Instead of adding to an imaginary list of why we’re awful, we toss out the list and use challenges to feed our self-confidence.
No outside events need to change in order for our thoughts to shift in this way. The Baal Shem Tov, a famous kabbalist, put it perfectly. “We think we are sad because things don’t go our way when in reality things don’t go our way because we are sad.”
Shifting our pessimistic thoughts to optimistic thoughts is how we galvanize the two extremes within us and come into balance.
The way we think about our lives affects our lives. Full stop. What we think we deserve affects what comes to us. Our belief about how our day will unfold creates the way we experience that day. What we think about our body becomes the quality of our health. What we think about ourselves becomes the quality of all of our relationships. The way we experience every single area of our life is dictated by how we choose to think about it.
So let’s start right now.
Would you define yourself as an optimist or a pessimist?
THOUGHT INTO ACTION
This week, set an intention to balance your energies. When you feel yourself slipping into pessimism, take it as a gentle reminder that you’re off balance and choose a more positive-feeling thought. Make note of how your experience shifts. I would love to hear how this goes for you so feel free to share here in the comments.