Optimism Resources

There will always be plenty of news that can bring us down. There are so many ways in which we can look at the world and see short-sightedness, or violence, or just plain foolishness; our news media focuses largely on areas of conflict, and our social media feeds are often full of outrage.

In spite of all of that, and without denying any of the risks or problems of the current moment, we have many substantial reasons for optimism. If we look at the broader arcs of history, we see improvement in many areas of human life – nutrition, health, liberty, opportunity, and freedom from violence among them. And when we look to the future, even within the next generation, the possibilities for human achievement are mind-boggling.

So when news of the world gets you down, here are some resources to help remind you of what else is possible:

  • For a historical perspective on just how well things are going, I recommend The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined, by Stephen Pinker.  Pinker has been criticized for painting an especially dismal picture of our prehistoric past, and I think some of those criticisms are on-target. But he does an excellent job of demonstrating an astounding decline in many forms of violence from the dark ages through the era of the world wars through today, and in examining the reasons for that decline. Essentially, even with the difficulties we’ve had with terrorism in the 21st century, the global trends continue to be very much in the direction of fewer murders and assaults, and in the direction of humans essentially treating each other better globally.
  • For a look into the wonderful possibilities of the near future: Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think. This is an outstanding book by entrepreneur and futurist Peter Diamandis, who’s strongly engaged in training other entrepreneurs to solve the world’s problems. He particularly focuses on the big technological problems of food, water, and energy for the world population, and demonstrates many practical solutions that are already underway or reasonably expected to come soon.
  • Utopia for Realists, by Rutger Bregman, is a wonderful book that makes a strong case for Utopian ideals we can reach for in our current lifetimes – as well as how important it is for the human spirit to have these sorts of aspirations.
  • Graphs that demonstrate 200 years of solid improvement in the human condition:
  • There’s nothing quite like the excitement of Space to lift our eyes and our spirits. Tune in to whatever SpaceX is up to most recently – as I write this in early 2017, he’s just announced plans to send two space tourists around the moon next year.  SpaceX is bold – they don’t always hit their targets the first time (figuring out how to land a rocket for reuse took a few tries), but they keep going and they get there.
  • Loss of energy and vitality can get anyone down; and the widespread belief that things like weight gain, memory loss, declining strength and endurance, and bodily aches and pains are just things we have to put up with as we age is pretty depressing. Fortunately, there are a number of lively, enthusiastic pioneers pushing the boundaries of human performance at all age levels, and tuning in to their work can not only recharge your mood, but give you simple, actionable steps to living a much healthier and more vital life. My favorite among these is Dave Asprey at bulletproof.com. While I like some of his products, I especially enjoy his interviews with other leaders in the field of human health and human potential on his Bulletproof Radio podcast.

Finally, remember the people around you. While most of us have had the experience of being let down by friends, we’ve also had the experience of being loved by so many throughout our lives. Think of the 100 or so people closest to you. Think about how awesome they are, and how much you care about them. Now multiply that by 7 billion. This is the love that’s present on the planet right now. Focus on that – bring it forward in your own consciousness and recognize it in others. That love makes this planet a sweet place to be, even with our losses and confusion.


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