The older we get, the more we realize how little control we have over what life has in store for us. The future is unknown and scary as a result.
Because the past is all we know, we all tend to dwell in it. We walk around with the false belief that the best is behind us. This nostalgic cynicism is dangerous. When we're stuck looking in the rearview mirror, it causes disasters in front of us.
We're all guilty. Thoughts like, "I wish I never left that job," "My 20s were my best years," or "I wish things were like they used to be" are all examples.
Those who experience continued success and happiness don't think like this. They genuinely believe that the best is yet to come. This optimistic outlook wills their dreams and aspirations into existence. Happiness breeds happiness, and illustrations are all around us if we choose to see them. Unfortunately, most don't. They waste the present on pessimism. I'm going to save you some time; you won't find what you're looking for in the past. I would know.
Back in high school and college, I was living a very purpose-driven life. I was heavily involved in sports, faith, and education. The clarity provided direction and encouragement. But then, my life changed. My sports career ended, my career path switched, and all the plans I had in store for myself blew up. My faith was shaken as a consequence. It was time to reshuffle the deck and start over.
In the process, though, I couldn't stop thinking about what I once had. I was bitter and so focused on trying to recreate the past, that I was missing opportunities all around me to make an impact, find purpose and meaningful work. Concentrating on the past put up blinders that were holding back my future. At about this time, I found a quote (that I tweaked) from American author Edward Everett Hale that encouraged me to jump back on the horse.
"I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and even though I cannot do what I once did, I will not refuse to do something that I can now."
It wasn't until I chose optimism and to make the best of my current situation that my attitude and career started to turn around. I now look for the good in every opportunity, and as a result, most things turn out to be positive experiences and accretive to my development and career.
Pessimism can be a dangerous, career-limiting mindset. I'm not saying that everything is sunshine and rainbows, but life is what we make it. If you don't think more optimistically than you do pessimistically, then you've destined yourself for a disappointing and lackluster career.