An Optimistic Outlook Improves Every Task, Allan Armitage Says

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AllanArmitage2Have you ever had a song stuck in your head? You hum it, you whistle it and it just won’t go away. Right now, I have a catchy old song on my brain that is actually pretty sunny. It was originally released by Johnny Nash, more than 40 years ago.

I am humming it now, “I Can See Clearly Now, The Rain Is Gone…” over and over. And if something has to be stuck in my cranium, it might as well be a song that promises great things in the future, now that “the rain is gone.”

The song reminds me, in a weird sort of way, that optimism is not only a good thing, but a necessary thing to succeed. However, like all blanket statements, it is sometimes much harder to live than to talk about.

Keep Going, Don’t Give Up
There are definitely people out there who have trouble seeing clearly, while others not only see the glass half full, but are filling all the time. Those are the people with whom I try to surround myself, because like momentum in a big game, optimism is contagious.

Optimism does not translate to a happy face or Pollyanna glasses, but most often to simply slogging on, because the choices are simple: give up or keep going. How to do it may not be easy, and the instructions are nowhere written. But I think Albert Einstein put it pretty well when he said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

It’s All In How You Look At Life
This topic of staying with it came to me a few Saturdays ago when I was in the gym at spin class. I wrote about spinning a number of months ago and suffice it to say, it is not always easy to complete an hour of this Draconian practice.

We were struggling to keep our legs moving as we climbed a steep hill, which was to persist for three minutes. At the end of the first minute, the instructor said, “We have climbed 30 percent of the hill.”

Then she added, “Some of you are saying, ‘Oh my God, another 70 percent to go?’ while others are thinking, ‘Hey, I have finished 30 percent — only 70 percent more to do.’”

Isn’t that the truth? When a hard task is in front of us, we can choose to complain or we can get on with the job.

An Optimistic Outlook Improves Every Task
Perhaps it is because I am maturing that I don’t have a lot of patience with complainers and pessimists. While I don’t want to be around them, I give my advice (but only when asked) about what I do to try to pick myself up.

I often remind myself to replace the “o” with an “e” in a single word. I try never to think, “I’ve got to go to work,” “I’ve got to go running,” “I’ve got to do those exercises,” “I’ve got to go to class.” Rather, I think, “I get to go to work,” “I get to go running,” “I get to do those exercises,” “I get to go to class.”

It doesn’t always work, but it puts things in perspective, and perhaps that is all we need when life is a little out of balance.

By the way, I am still humming. The next line is, “I can see all obstacles in my way.” Won’t you please sing along?

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving. – Albert Einstein.

Allan Armitage (allan@greenhouse grower.com) is a professor in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.

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