There’s a slogan that goes, “think globally, act locally.” The idea is that we should orient ourselves based on big-picture priorites–even planning to be a small part of a larger movement or community–but be sure to behave and perform with a pragmatic focus on our immediate surroundings. It’s not a bad motto for keeping your heart in the clouds rather than your head, and your feet on the ground instead of in your mouth.
As I start a new chapter in life in a position at a different school, I’ve been working on tempering my pessimism with charity. I like that I’m skeptical, even cynical at times; I think it insulates me from deception and ineffective actions. However, it also makes me slow to charity and compassion. As I noted in an analysis of the Book of Mormon once, we’re not supposed to become emotionally calloused.
Excessive negativity also has another down side: it doesn’t help. It might be comfortable, but it does little to actually produce results.
So this week I’ve developed a new philosophy that I want to guide me this year: think negatively, act positively.
I think this is how the strong people I know must operate. I’ve known plenty who are ruthessly realistic about the nature of life, but who face every situation with the sunniest disposition possible. I still want the tools of cold, hard reason to rule my thinking, but I also want to be an agent of more happiness in the world. I’ve been practicing this, and I think I’m getting better. And best of all: unflagging, energetic optimism does something. You can see it in how instantly it improves things. Positivity get results. And for a cranky, old-fashioned curmudgeon, isn’t that what matters most?