The Shadow Side of Optimism

Optimism is a strange animal. On the one hand, it can power us to action and inspire others, whilst on the other it can become vehicle for denial and procrastination. Optimism is an animal to be treated with respect and caution.

There is a lot of the shadow side of optimism around at the moment. As I listened to the news this morning, the comments of the Conservative rebels in yesterday’s vote in the Commons saying they still back Boris, but need him to change chimed with those of companies committing to “net zero” on a clearly expedient, temporary basis. Kicking the can down the road rather than dealing with the evident issue at hand. Optimism as a tactical weapon.

Perhaps the most optimistic industry sector we have is leadership education. We spend over three hundred and fifty billion dollars a year on it, in the hope that a week or two away somewhere pleasant will give managers enough confidence to change the culture they are on a temporary break from. I cannot think of a single leader who is changing our world at the moment who has acquired their capability on a leadership course.

“In the long run it is far more dangerous to adhere to illusion than to face what the actual fact is.” 

David Bohm.

The issues we face are clear, even if not fully understood. We consume too much. We distribute the proceeds from the process of creating what is consumed unfairly, and our accounting systems pay no regard the irreplaceable raw materials we use in doing it. Sustainability is not an aspiration, and the lack of it is smothering us today.

Now that’s out of the way, it’s time to return to optimism. To take individual responsibility, and work with others close to us to make the small differences we can, in the hope that it will be enough.

Optimism needs a hand.

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