Five principles of deliberate optimism


Can life ever be what you want it to be? There is a world of difference between the world you want to live in and the one in which you find yourself. Deliberate optimism is about working with what is.

Gentle reader: It is my happy burden to report to you that social media serendipity is alive and well in 2017. So is the spirit of deliberate optimism.

Back on New Year’s Day I wrote about deliberate optimism (a phrase I came across in Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, the beautifully written memoir of Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein).

“Deliberate optimism is something to cherish, to celebrate, to aspire to.”

Deliberate optimism is not about deluding youself that everything will be just perfect.

Deliberate optimism is positive, but clear-eyed.

Deliberate optimism is about working with what is.

These past seven days, five of my favourite folk have shared
thought-provoking words that I think embody a spirit of deliberate

I’d like to share here five principles of deliberate optimism.

1: Things are seldom optimum

My social media highlight of this week was seeing my good friend Christopher Demers return to Twitter after a few months away from the land of 140 characters (or fewer). Christopher has also blessed us with a fantastic blog post, entitled Running in the Dark. It’s brief and it’s beautiful. Please head to Christopher’s blog and read it in full. I want to draw out this passage here:

“Things are seldom optimum. We rarely have enough time, knowledge,
money, patience… and yet, life goes on. Whether we run or not, time
marches on.”

I could not hope to have put things so succinctly: “Things are seldom optimum.” This is an inescapable fact for all of us. It should never hold us back from doing, from being.

2: Can you make snow fall on the perfect landscape?


Serendipitously, Neil Morrison’s latest post – Expectation versus reality – considers whether less-than-optimum results are really so bad. Indeed, there’s a lot to be gained from no getting what we want all the time:

“[A]t repeated points in life we will all be sad, disappointed, let down
or hurt. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t continue to try, to hope,
it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t care, shouldn’t continue to strive or
even love. In many ways, the power of all of those emotions manifests
most prominently when they fail to be realised. In adversity we see the
true strength and beauty of the essence of being human.”

He also suggests we strive to be realistic about the amount of control we can realistically expect to exert over life:

“Can you make snow fall on the perfect landscape?”

3: Victim of changes?*

Steve Browne’s latest post – Get in shape !! – oozes deliberate optimism from every word:

“We can either be a victim of the changes that occur around as or as they pass us by, or we can do our best to own our situations.”

4: We take on what is

Adriene Mishler shares a fantastic statement of intent for approaching life with deliberate optimism in her excellent Yoga Revolution Day 11 video, published this week:

“We don’t shy away. We take on what is.”

I can appreciate that yoga is not for everybody. As physically graceless and inflexible as I am, I never would have thought it was for me. But as I recently blogged, giving yoga a go transformed my life in 2016. It may work for you, too. Yoga is all about taking on what is.

5: You did it and you can do it again


If you live and work in the south-east of England, it’s possible your life has been affected by the ongoing strikes on Southern Rail. My friend Charlie Eastabrook posted the most wonderful, fierce response on her instagram**:

“To all those wet warriors who today chose to #bikethestrike, braved hostile conditions and won against the wind, rain and irate road users, I salute you! May the water boil and the kettle whistle with the sounds of cocoa, tea and coffee to welcome you home. You did it and you can do it again! Do not give up! We can do it!”

My own 2017 got off to a superb start last week with a long-overdue catch-up with Charlie. I walked away feeling happy and full of deliberate optimism.


Things are seldom optimum.

Deliberate optimism is about working with what is.

You did it. And you can do it again.


* If you know owt about my musical preferences, you will see why I couldn’t not link to this 41 year old (!!!) Judas Priest classic:

** My thanks to Charlie for her extremely kind permission to reproduce her instagram post here.


  • Photo at top of post taken by @mjcarty, Friday 13 January 2017.
  • Hayami Snow image via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Pics of Charlie Eastabrook and Charlie Eastabrook plus @mjcarty both the work of the excellent Mrs Eastabrook.

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