March 30, 2020
by Dave Bushy
Faith is a word which elicits different thoughts and emotions for each of us. For some, it is a sense of trusting others or implicitly knowing we are understood or respected. For others, it can be the feeling that we will always be encouraged by our friends, colleagues and fellow travelers, especially in time of need. And for many, like me, it is centered on a belief in a higher power. Often, it is all of those things combined – and more.
Faith and optimism are intertwined. One cannot truly believe that something positive will happen in the future without taking a metaphorical leap of faith that is centered in optimism. Be it a soldier looking over in the foxhole at the man next to him or the coworker with whom you’ve worked for years – it takes faith and optimism to know that the other person will always have your back when the challenges – and battles – confront us.
My colleagues at the Gestalt International Study Center (GISC) have a wonderful perspective called the “Optimistic Stance.” Their outlook says, “Gestalt takes a realistic view of the present and an optimistic view of the possible, preferring to work in the development of the potential within an individual or system rather than correcting them.” In other words, they see each system, be they families, teams or much larger groups, as having inherent capabilities that can be appreciated and noticed. Once they are pointed out, growth is unleashed, which serves every system.
What a wonderful concept for all of us to ponder in this enormously challenging time. Daily, we are seeing human potential and capabilities expanding and meeting the challenges of this crisis. And those capabilities are allowing further growth and development in the myriad systems that exist in our society. The medical community is undoubtedly at the forefront of this. Their already well-developed capabilities are expanding exponentially, even in the face of logistical, testing and equipment challenges. They and the researchers, engineers, business people and myriad other supporting systems continue to invent new ways of confronting the crisis.
Belief in the development of such potential relies on faith in others, and, of equal importance – faith in ourselves. And that faith is bigger than all of us. Hebrew 11:1 tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Today, more than ever, it is imperative that we tap into that optimism that will support us through these difficult times. Finding your own sense of faith that will support optimism is an individual journey, yet one in which you can join with others to help explore. Think about that if you try to stay tuned to the continual 24-hour news cycle. Without faith, we can become so focused on every possible negative outcome that the future looks dim to each of us. By holding to faith and optimism we can see beyond the current situation we face – and we can see possibilities beyond tomorrow.
Optimism and faith certainly do not deny the possibility of unpleasant outcomes or difficulties – they merely hold that everyone – be they individuals, teams or much larger systems – have the capacity to grow and learn and to develop new ways of working together. And this is especially true in times of crisis. Look around today and see the wondrous way in which people are supporting and encouraging each other; indeed, they are expressing love for their fellow man in ways we could not have imagined weeks ago.
Paul Romer believes in what he calls “conditional optimism.” He writes about it regarding climate change, and I find it appropriate for our current challenges as well. Romer writes,
“Pessimism is more likely to foster denial, procrastination, apathy, anger, and recrimination. It is conditional optimism that brings out the best in us. So we should stop saying that ‘the end is near.’ ”
“We should say instead: ‘Ok, we made some mistakes. We can start fixing them by pointing our innovative efforts in a slightly different direction. If we do, we can do things that are even more amazing than the truly amazing things we have already accomplished. It will be so easy that looking back it will seem painless. Let’s get going.’”
As I have talked with clients, colleagues and friends these past few weeks, I have been honored to helped others discover and hold onto their own optimistic stances. For some it is faith in humanity – for others it might be the power of love and the goodness inherent in people. Whatever serves as a foundation for that faith, it in turn guides them and informs their ability to see beyond our own fears and anxieties. It energizes their optimism,
I have faith in God, which, for me, is foundational. As a result, I have faith in everything I see and know in this world. And that faith informs my optimism.
I invite you to discover what your faith is and with it be able to own your own optimism and let it guide you towards the future. In other words, to help you “get going” in the days and weeks ahead.
Dave Bushy of Boston Executive Coaches – bostonexecutivecoaches.com – is a former senior airline executive who works with leaders throughout American industry. He experienced the challenges of 9/11 and its aftermath.