OPtimism and OPportunity–A discussion on language and living

I love words. Sometimes I even consider myself an amateur linguist. Even though I don’t understand every language, I enjoy making meaningful connections between words that sound or look the same. Some people might call this poetry or prose, or homophones or homonyms, or just suffixes and prefixes.

I call it FUN.

This morning I discovered two words that I had never related before: OPTIMISM and OPPORTUNITY.

Are the similarities of these words a coincidence? I think not.

First of all, both words start with the same two letters: OP.

Whether these spellings are a rule of the English, Greek, Latin or German languages is a discussion for another place and a professional linguist.

Beyond the letter formation, however, the meanings are intertwined: optimism and opportunity are usually found under the same circumstances.

And optimism and opportunity are usually found in the same people.

Optimists put a smile on their face and cheerfully push through difficult circumstances believing that things are going to get better—which they usually do. Those who live their life in this rose-colored world enjoy simple pleasures and everyday happiness that worry worts can only dream about. What a pleasant way to live!

This positive outlook also makes optimists more prone to be opportunists, and actively seek new prospects.

In fact, I’ve observed that people who are willing to take opportunities are usually optimists. They believe that most things will work out. They welcome chances at their doorstep. They are inclined to take a reasonable risk with a smile and assume it will open even more opportunities to them.

Hey! There’s another “op” word—open.

Optimism opens opportunity.

Yes. Having a positive outlook literally gives us more wonderful chances in life. It actually makes living more full and rich and wonderful. All because of attitude.

History teaches that opportunity is a fleeting visitor. I like to think of opportunity as a boat that sails by, and we have only a few minutes to climb aboard and see where the voyage takes us. Optimists readily accept these rides on the H.M.S. Opportunity.

The opposite (yes, “op”), of optimism is pessimism.

A pessimist would let that boat pass by. (Note the two “P” words.)

Pessimists’ negative attitudes make them cower down and peek over the edge to see if that particular ship has sailed so that they no longer need to feel guilty about not climbing on board.

This passing allows the pessimist to say with relief, “See, I told you it would not work out.” When in essence, it may have been a wonderful chance that is now gone.

Pessimists expect the worst and are content to batten down their hatches and do nothing—at all.

It is almost astounding how one situation can be viewed so differently by two different people: Is that ship a wonderful opportunity? Or a reckless accident to be avoided at all costs?

Is the glass half full? Or half empty? Both declarations are absolutely true.

When doors open and chances are offered, pessimists ask, “Why? Why would I risk my current situation for that chance?”

On the other hand, optimists ask, “Why not? Why not expand my view and try something new?”

Pessimists are the boats safe at home in the harbor, yet, as Emerson observed, “that’s not what boats were made for.”

I’m an expert on optimists because my husband is one.

During difficult times he reminds me that things are going to get better. His cheerful attitude often pulls me through slumps.

This optimism also makes him an opportunist. When new chances sail near us, he usually agrees to sail along. I’ve learned through observing his positive paradigm that life is truly full and rich and wonderful. In fact, his optimism and the ensuing opportunities have opened many exciting doors for him and for our family. I’m grateful that he’s had the courage to jump on board, and encourage me to do the same. His “chance taking” has been a blessing to all of us.

What opportunities have you opened your heart to lately? What positive attitude have you adopted during a trying circumstance?

What boats have you courageously boarded to find that they are treasure troves of rich experience?

What cheerful outlook have you chosen that led to solutions and even progress?

Are optimism and opportunity related? I’m sure that somewhere on the English tree of language their branches connect in roots and meanings.

But for this amateur linguist, I’m content to simply conclude that optimism and opportunity aren’t just spelled the same; in living life, they ARE the same.


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