Hopes, Dreams, and Optimism | Sara Biren

 I saw a quote this week that’s stuck with me and rankled me a little: 

“To be optimistic is to assume things will work out. To be hopeful is to realize things can work out if you work at them. Hope requires responsibility and agency; optimism relieves us of both. In rooting for your sports team, choose optimism. In rooting for democracy, choose hope.”

— Eric Liu

I don’t know the context of this quote from Eric Liu, the founder of Citizens University, a nonprofit organization that promotes civics education. However, to say that optimism relieves us of responsibility and agency bothered me a little. 

Take it from me, a reformed pessimist: Optimism takes work. Optimism is not as passive as this quote makes it sound. Optimism is a choice. Even sitting down to think about hopes and dreams for the yearthe theme of this month’s YAOTL poststakes work. Optimism, defined by Merriam-Webster as “an inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events or to anticipate the best possible outcome,” takes effort.

And why not assume things will work out? What’s wrong with that? My sister-in-law has even made this her catchphrase: “Things are always working out for me.” I prefer to believe that things will work out over worrying about the worst-case scenario. That’s not to say an optimist can’t be realistic, and I’m definitely not a fan of toxic positivity, but I do always try to remember that the sun is always shining, even behind the clouds. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it. 

What are my hopes and dreams for the year? To hike more, worry less. To read good books and to write a couple, too. To spend more time with my family and friends, to go to concerts and football games and hockey games. To travel to new and familiar places. To choose love. To share love. To live simply. 

I’m optimistic that it’s all going to work out for me.


  1. I am an expert worrier. I've been working on that, too. My grandmother used to say if you're worrying, just scrub the floor. I know what she meant--get busy, don't just sit around and let things bother you. I've committed myself to working on art / drawing this year. It's really helped.

  2. Worry is the theft of serenity.


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