How California Used Optimism To Tackle A Big Problem -- You Can Too

06/16/2016 12:13 pm ET Updated Jun 16, 2017

Despite Donald Trump's recent proclamation that "California has no drought" (!!), we here in California are pretty darn sure we've been experiencing a drought for lo these many years.

To the point where the Los Angeles DWP, for example, came up with some pretty ingenious solutions, including my favorite: the famous 96 million floating shade balls.*

But here's the thing: to get to that innovative solution, the Los Angeles DWP had first to adopt an optimistic point of view. They had to be hopeful and confident that something could be done to remedy the problem. Regardless of the fact that they didn't know what it could possibly be, they firmly believed that a solution - or many solutions - could be found. That is the hallmark of optimists: a hopeful and confident attitude toward the future.

Not, as so many people believe, a "pie in the sky" unrealistic shoving of problems under the rug. Not a "California has no drought" position of utter denial of reality. Because regardless of what you think caused the drought, we Californians are most definitely feeling it.

Now I'm not trying to take a political stance here, but rather wanting to point out the value of an optimistic point of view. You see, when you believe that the future can be good, you're more willing to exert effort to move in that direction. You become solution-oriented, rather than staying mired in the problem (pessimism), or denying the existence of a problem altogether (denial).

So there you are, suffering from staggering credit card debt or an ever increasing adjustable mortgage, or an ever shrinking retirement fund. Denial would have you say: "I'm fine, everything's fine!" as you apply for yet another credit card. Which pretty much guarantees bankruptcy in your very near future. A flat-out pessimistic attitude would have you say: "I can't get out of this hole. I'll just rack up as many goodies as I can, max everything out, and when they come seize all my worldly possessions, what the heck, at least I'll have had a good time."

An optimistic attitude would have you say something quite different. It would start with "Yup, I'm way overextended." But then, infused with a generally hopeful and confident attitude toward your future, you'd say: "There's got to be a way out of this. I don't know what it is yet, but I'm sure I can find it."

The mind is a funny thing. It pays attention to what we ask it to focus on. So when you start from "I don't know what the solution is, but I'm sure I can find it," you tune your mind to "Find a solution."

As your mind deliberately sorts through all the stimuli that bombards us every second of every day, bit by bit, a solution reveals itself to you. It may not be the best solution, or the only solution, but it is a solution, and one solution leads to another and then you're off and running towards getting yourself out of debt. Or whatever the problem is you're dealing with.

As opposed to telling your mind "Everything's fine," whereupon your mind goes, "Whatever you say, oh great director of focus," and obediently ignores whatever might actually provide you with a solution to your debt problem.

Have the courage to look at whatever your problem might be, acknowledge that it exists, and accept it as such. Phew. Step One done. Step Two: decide that there must be a solution, even if you haven't a clue what it could be right now. That's the hopeful and confident part. Step Three: start moving in that direction--walk your talk.

Maybe, just maybe, one of the reasons optimists live longer, are healthier, happier and more successful is because they've mastered Steps One, Two and Three. May it be so for you!

* Although the shade balls are not necessarily "the" solution for other reservoirs (for various reasons), they are still working just fine for the Los Angeles Reservoir, as well as provoking yet more new ways to protect our precious water.