Eighth grader Clarisa shared the character strength of optimism with all of us at this week’s All School Meeting through a quote that spoke to her: Don’t call it a dream, call it a plan.
Winston Churchill's famous quote that “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty" speaks to actualizing that plan in Clarisa’s quote.
There has been a fair amount of research on the impact optimism can play in our lives. It’s been proven to better our immune systems as well as helping us cope with difficult situations. There is even one study that found “for every 10 point increase in a person’s score on their optimism scale, the risk of early death decreased by 19%”! Maruta, Colligan, Malinchoc, and Offord (2000)
Martin Seligman, who we heard from on Character Day this year, defines optimism as reacting to problems with a sense of confidence and high personal ability. It is easy to see how we want our girls in middle school and well beyond to react to life in this way! With that confidence, the dream could be in its way. Dr. Seligman, among others, believes that optimism is a skill we can all learn and one that can be nurtured in children. For those of us who have difficulty not seeing the glass as anything but half empty, there is hope we can begin to see the glass as half full. It might be easier for your daughters at their ages, but it’s important as well that as the adults in their lives, we try to mirror optimism for them.
I shared a favorite quote and story about optimism with the Faculty and Staff in August before your daughters arrived because I do believe reflecting optimism is critical. The first is from Helen Keller: No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit. Of course, considering Helen Keller’s life, this quote speaks to her own indomitable spirit, and confidence, and her ability to see the possibilities. If our girls are going to be able to innovate or be on the forefront of a world we have yet to imagine, they will need optimism as one of their strengths.
The following story is one I love and that inevitably, makes me laugh out loud every time.
Once there were five-year-old twin girls,
one a pessimist and the other an optimist.
Wondering how two girls who seemed so alike could
be so different, their parents took them to a psychiatrist.
The psychiatrist took the pessimist to a room piled high
with new toys, expecting the girl to be thrilled. But instead
she burst into tears. Puzzled, the psychiatrist asked,
"don't you want to play with these toys?"
"Yes," the little girl bawled,
"but if I did I'd only break them."
Next the psychiatrist took the optimist to a room piled high
with horse manure. The girl yelped with delight, clambered
to the top of the pile, and joyfully dug out scoop after scoop,
tossing the manure into the air with glee.
"What on earth are you doing?" the psychiatrist asked.
"Well,” said the girl, beaming
“There’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!"
~ Author unknown ~
I, along with the Faculty and Staff, spend our days at JMSG with your daughters because we believe deeply in the power of education. By creating an environment at Julia Morgan where girls lead, learn, and are heard over the course of three years, we believe that they will have the confidence to act on their dreams and to seize the possibilities before them.
And my wish for all of us is that we remember the ponies!