Thursday, December 20, 2012

Don't Fall Into that Trap

At this time of year, our thoughts turn to family, friends and all our blessings.  We focus on the positive in our lives and in our relationships.  With the new year on the horizon, we tend to emphasize and communicate optimistic thoughts and not give in to any pessimistic urges that may arise as a result of the economy, family or business issues or any other disappointing development.  But can we sustain this sense of hopefulness?

Accordingly, it was with great interest that I read an interview with Israel’s retiring Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, about endless Palestinian talks and the dangers of pessimism; it appeared in Tom Friedman’s New York Times column on December 8.  Friedman had previously cited the late and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s point that “it’s incumbent on every Israeli leader to test, test and test again – using every ounce of Israeli creativity –  to  see if Israel can find a Palestinian partner for a secure peace…”

Barak underscored this point of view and made a permanent impact on me by what he said regarding the ramifications of pessimism:

[If you surrender to pessimism, you] “lose sight of the opportunities and the will to seize opportunities.  I know that you can’t say when leaders raise this pessimism that it is all just invented.  It is not all invented, and you would be stupid if you did not look [at it] with open eyes.  But it is a major risk that you will not notice that you become enslaved by this pessimism in a way that will paralyze you from understanding that you can shape it.  The world is full of risks, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a responsibility to do something about it –  within your limits and the limits of realism – and avoid self-fulfilling prophecies that are extremely dangerous…”

To keep everything going in the right direction, we have a responsibility to be realistic optimists.  Better solutions and continuous improvement must be our mantra.  Even when things appear to be at their darkest we must “test, test and test again” and employ every ounce of our creativity to solve problems that look like they may never be solved.  Many positive world developments would have gone awry had some leader not shared that belief.

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