Ray Dawe: reasons to be cheerful - and positive for year ahead

Are you a glass half-full or a glass half-empty person? While some people are naturally more optimistic than others, ultimately we all wake up every morning and have this choice of how we approach the day.

The past year was another of uncertainty and grim economic forecasts, unless of course you take into account the phenomenal success of the London Olympic Games and the effect that had on the wellbeing and optimism of the nation. For me the tide is turning from a ‘how are we ever going to get out of this situation’ mentality to one where the attitude is ‘we are where we are so let’s get on with it and be positive’.

How often do we read reports or see news bulletins that pick up on a piece of good, positive news but then spend the rest of the time warning us that this can’t possibly continue and problems may lie round the corner? I well recall the BBC TV report of the day before the Olympics, when the first real trial of the transport and entry systems had been run and worked perfectly, and the commentator’s words, ‘It certainly went better than we thought it was going to!’ It seemed even with the Olympics that we were stuck with the negative and then came that spectacular opening ceremony. It all worked, we had the medals, the most cynical became optimistic and positive and expectations soared as a result.

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The American psychologist, Susan Segerstrom in her book, ‘How Optimists Get What They Want from Life - and Pessimists Can Too’, highlights the fact that studies on well-being show that optimistic behaviour contributes to better physical health, greater resilience in the face of life’s twists and turns, and more satisfying relationships. Optimists apparently earn more too! Those who practice optimism try to achieve their goals while she suggests that the rest of us worry whether their goals are attainable. Just because you can find lots of reasons for feeling down and becoming a bona fide pessimist doesn’t mean that you should. Expecting only bad things to come your way might be keeping you from doing those very things that might have minimised a negative outcome. The fact is, optimism creates opportunity and pessimism kills it. This may indeed be a moment for cautious optimism about things getting better for us all, particularly with regard to the economic outlook.

Trevor Williams, chief economist at Lloyds commercial banking division, said in a survey taken over the Christmas period, ‘It is good to see businesses in a more upbeat mood about the economy and their own trading prospects’. They found 40 per cent more businesses are optimistic for 2013 than are pessimistic. The survey also found that firms operating in the public sector, banks and other service companies also harboured hopes, albeit modest ones, for the year ahead.

New research from American Express found that over half of small business owners across Britain expect their businesses to grow in the coming 12 months, with only 11 per cent expecting their business to contract in 2013.

The jobs market has just enjoyed its best quarter in three years and here in Horsham District we have an unemployment rate of just 1.5 per cent. In short, there is every reason to believe that 2013 could be the year when things start to look up and then continue that way. Everything will not get better, to be sure, and there are still significant problems out there, but if we all try having that glass half-full, you never know what we might achieve.