Mind over matter (or never mind what doesn’t matter!)

By DAVID LEWIS [email protected]

David Lewis lives in Praia da Luz with his wife Shirley, and two children, Ollie and Fraser. Having spent more than 25 years in the City of London, he is now Financial Services Manager with the Oceânico Group.

Ever since I was a young lad, I have been told that I have been an eternal optimist, one of life’s hopefuls.

Now, as a lifelong supporter of Tottenham Hotspur (ever since, as an impressionable young lad, I watched the mighty Whites beat Chelsea 2-1 in the 1967 F.A. Cup Final), optimism has become a kind of way of life.

Obviously, we Spurs fans well know that it will all go horribly wrong at some point, yet we cling on to a fervoured hope that maybe, just maybe, this season will be different.

So, yes, I admit it. I am very much a “glass half full” type of a bloke.

Now, the funny thing is that, whenever I am told this, it always seems to be delivered in a tone that I can only describe as slightly accusatory. Like I’m being accused of being a closet gambler, or that I secretly admire Jedward’s musical attributes.

It’s almost as though being optimistic makes me some sort of outcast.

The problem, of course, is that we Brits are, by and large, fairly negative people. I know that when, as a Nation, our backs are against the wall, we are capable of pulling together in the most uplifting fashion. Why, I believe that there were even times during World War II when people on the same bus would talk to each-other.

But given the choice, we do tend to like a bit of a moan.

Actually, the more I think about it, maybe that’s not quite true. Maybe the moaners simply speak up a bit more than the silent majority. If something goes wrong, there will always be hordes of pessimists just waiting to pipe up with a volley of “told you so’s”. On the other hand, when things are actually quite OK, we get almost silence.

Take the news for example. Give them a bad news story and it’s on every bulletin for about a month. They draft in teams of misery gut experts to tell us not just how bad things are but how much worse they are likely to get.

Yet give them a good news story and it might get mentioned at the end of the bulletin, somewhere between England’s latest penalty shoot-out defeat and the forecast for persistent rain.

I have no idea why we hate good news so much but I reckon it’s time to turn the tables on the pessimists and make 2010 the year of the optimist!

Now, I have no doubt at all that there will be some readers who will see this as yet another example of misplaced hope. I beg to differ. Let me tell you why I am an optimist – and proud of it.

Seeing the positive side has many health advantages, for example. I walk with a slightly more buoyant spring in my step, head held high and with a genuine smile on my face. I can almost feel the stress drifting away. It’s better for the spirits too because I spend most of my day expecting good things to happen, rather than worrying about the bad.

At work, I like to think that a happy smile makes a more positive impact than a grumpy grimace. It means I spend less time contemplating my impending doom and more getting on with my day-job.

It means that I spend life in hope rather than dread, and how much better do you think that makes me feel? It means that I see the best in other people, rather than always trying to find fault or criticise. Maybe others will occasionally let me down by not being what you thought they were, but more times than not I was right after all.

Now, I know that there will be those of you who will tell me that I am misguided for shoving the negative of life to a far distant corner of my mind. After all, they cry, there is so much to be negative about if you really try! There’s the recession for a start, global warming, Iraq… Plenty for us to get into a state about!

Of course, that’s all true. I’m not denying for a moment that the world has problems. My point though is that we shouldn’t let things get out of proportion. Of course, I care as much about these things as the next man.  I worry about paying bills and making a living. I worry about the future of the planet for my children and I would love to see our soldiers back home. I can make my views known and I will take whatever action I can to make my contribution.

But at the end of the day, there is only so much I can do. So, there doesn’t seem to me to be too much point in worrying excessively. For every negative in my life, I can point to half a dozen positives. I have a wonderful family, fantastic friends and I live in a wonderful country.

Sure, I could sit around moping as much as the next man but would that help? Not one jot.

So, could I suggest that, on behalf of the silent majority of fellow optimists out there, we make 2010 the Year of the Smile? Go on, try it. I dare you!

David’s book Fifty/Fifty is available from the Griffin Bookshop in Almancil.