Optimism About the Future
There is a lot of pessimism in the air. As we come to the end of the first month of 2008 it seems that many are in a negative, hunker down state of mind. The stock markets are being fueled by fear. The commentators are speaking as though a major recession has begun. Casualties continue at too high a level in foreign combat, and of course it is cold and dark outside for much of the country. All this in a country that seems to have optimism in its national fiber.
The Pew Research Center just published a study that basically states that people are more pessimistic than usual coming into 2008. The Pew Center has consistently polled Americans in December about whether they think the following year will be better or worse that the year just ending. The numbers for December 2007 were that 50% of the people thought 2008 would be better, and 34% thought it will be worse. This compares to 57% and 28% in December 2006. In December 1998 the numbers were 59% and 25%. Finally, in the middle of the Internet bubble, 66% thought that 2000 would better than 1999 while only 19% thought it would be worse (in spite of the looming Y2K fear that was rampant that month).
Fear seems to spread virally more quickly than love. It seems more infectious. This of course is something that the current administration in Washington has used to its advantage for the past seven years. â€œIf we donâ€™t kill them there, they will kill us hereâ€ and â€œ the terror threat has been raised to level orangeâ€ can be heard only so many times before it starts to wear one down, if one lets it. Government by fear has proven to work, so the current administration has taken it to levels not experienced in my lifetime.
When the stock markets gyrate wildly, losing hundreds of billions of dollars of value in a week it can be unnerving, particularly when you check your 401k or IRA accounts. It is easy to panic or become depressed and worried about oneâ€™s economic situation. We all have those concerns, particularly when â€˜expertsâ€™ tell us we should be concerned. Well, as a futurist I obviously take the long view, and from this perspective I am optimistic.
As I wrote in my Forecast for 2008, this year feels like a historically significant year, one that might in fact be a defining moment in our illustrious history. During such a year there will be upheavals, volatility and change. Status quo will go out the window as the winds of change blow through our house. This is a very exciting time! We humans often mistake status quo for being good and change as being bad. This of course is an incorrect perception as the only thing constant is change. We not only live in interesting times, we are living in transformative times. As many of us baby boomers look back to 1967 and 1968 as years that changed us individually and our country collectively so too will people look back to 2008 and talk about what a year it was.
In speeches that I give and in my forth coming book I speak about the fact that the speed of change has accelerated to the point where it is now constant and part of our environment. That is why I have called the book, and this time â€œThe Shift Ageâ€. Every thing seems to be shifting underfoot and all around us. We are moving into a new time and this can cause fear. A phrase that comes to mind is the title of a book by a friend of mine, a wonderful woman named Susan Jeffers. The title of her best selling book is â€œFeel the Fear and Do it Anywayâ€. While the focus of her book was on the individual, I suggest that it is a phrase that we collectively keep in mind as we move through this year.
There are so many things to be optimistic about. Look at all the young people, uplifted by the hopeful, visionary message of the Barack Obama campaign. These are people who were in their teens on 9/11/01 and when the subsequent fear mongering blew in. This is the first time in their adult lives that they have been given a reason to be hopeful. That is a positive force I have not seen in years. The future of any nation lies in large part in its youth and for the first time a sizeable number of them are excited and mobilized to create a new future.
The economy is stronger than the pessimists allow. Strong actions have been taken. What is going on is not a recession, but a re-organization, a reconfiguration and a transformation due to the move to a global economy. In times of transformation the old is destroyed as the new rushes in. A bumpy ride for sure. If we use this time to lower our debt, be smarter with money and take more personal responsibility for our financial affairs we can more clearly focus on other areas of life that can foster happiness, growth and optimism.
As a futurist I am optimistic because there will be a new administration in Washington next year. None of the major and significant issues we must face as a nation if we are to remain great are being addressed by the current administration. We are in a lame duck time of government and that means out with the old and in with the new. While it is unclear what the new will be, it will be something different and that is good in and of itself.
Things change, and it is important to change our viewpoints along the way. Gasoline will not be cheap again. That is not a negative, it is just a reality of the new global energy landscape. Donâ€™t get upset by it, adjust to it. Every one I know who is or has purchased a new car recently has either bought a hybrid or traded in their SUV for a compact high mpg car. It is a time of change, of adjustment, of hope, of newness.
I often have found myself falling back on rock lyrics, so indulge me with three: â€œThose not busy being born are busy dyingâ€ â€œThe darkest hour is just before dawnâ€ and â€œOur future is so bright I got to wear shadesâ€.