WHEN THE TITANIC SANK, people scrambled
aboard lifeboats and were set adrift in the middle of nowhere
in pitch darkness. Only three hours after the liner disappeared
from the surface of the water, the first relief ships arrived.
But by that time some people in the lifeboats had already scared
themselves to death, or had gone mad.
Ninety percent of the survivors of any
shipwreck die within three days. But to die of hunger or thirst,
it takes much longer than that. It is despair that kills
those people. "Helpless in the night," wrote Dr. Alain
Bombard, French survival researcher and author of The Voyage of the Heretique, "chilled
by sea and wind, terrified by the solitude, by the noise and
by the silence, it takes less than three days for him to surrender
When people are in what looks like a hopeless
situation and they give up hope, it not only causes a breakdown
of the body, but they stop doing the things that could keep them
And this doesn't only apply to life-or-death
situations. We all tend to give up hope about some things
our dreams, some special goal we have, something we really want,
and we stop doing the things that could make them happen.
The loss of hope is a poisonous potion.
Optimism is the antidote. Here are three steps to greater optimism:
1. Be negative about the negative. Question those negative thoughts you automatically
think when disaster strikes. Argue against the pessimistic conclusions
you've jumped to. This must come first. When you feel negative,
the next two steps are very difficult. Being negative about the
negative brings you up enough to go further.
2. Appreciate what's good about your
situation. There's always something
good. Think about how much worse the situation could be and be
glad it isn't that bad.
3. Create a future.
Make realistic plans for the future and actively work toward
those goals. This creates life-giving, strength-building, sanity-bestowing
Your mind has no direction of its own.
Without your active participation, it will be blown hither and
thither by the winds of circumstance and the tides of emotions.
But it is possible to grab the tiller and steer. To get to the
sunny shore from the ocean of life, wrote James Allen, "Keep
your hand firmly on the helm of thought."