One of the many things that the year 2020 taught us is that a virus can be devastating, and it can spread like wildfire across an entire planet. From that virus can come the destruction of life, economic ruin, social upheaval, and utter human despair. By most accounts, the year 2020 took us entirely by surprise and knocked us on our collective butts. If that sounds true enough to you, has it caused you to look ahead to the new year with trepidation? I would understand if you answered yes to that question. But what if we could leave the rubble of 2020 in the rearview mirror? Could we make something else spread like wildfire in 2021? Perhaps optimism could be our roadmap to the future.

The truth is, when we have optimism and hope, we possess the two strong ramparts of what I refer to as the victorious spirit. It is this spirit that can usher us through the inevitable highs and lows of life. Optimism is critical to successful survival precisely because, throughout life, so many things will go wrong. Whether the things that go wrong in life are frivolous or disastrous, setbacks and upsets are part and parcel of our human existence. The good news is, we wouldn’t develop into better people without the experience of struggle. Every event in our lives, good or bad, presents an opportunity for knowledge, perseverance, and growth. A negative experience doesn’t mandate an adverse reaction. As a society, we must overcome the temptation to resent or withdraw from unfavorable circumstances to learn from them.

Hope is a close relative of optimism, a force of inspiration that – if we let it – can course through every vein of our lives. Hope is a vaccination against the all-consuming virus that is pessimism. It provides mental as well as physical strength at times, builds purpose, and motivates spirits. Hope is born from passion, desire, and longing. It comes to life when someone wants something so much that they can do no more and hoping for it is the final and ultimate option.

Though hope may seem like a silly pastime or a passive force, we all know that it can defy all reason and foresight by beating even the most insurmountable odds. You’ve likely read or heard about at least a few stories throughout your life that credited hope with overcoming even the most terrible of likelihoods. The experience of hope is an intensely human emotion and one that is a great equalizer. It transcends gender, age, race, socioeconomic status, and anything else that would try to put us in a “you can’t do that because…” box. There is no miraculous outcome that has come to manifest without the spark of hope to light the flame.

So, after so much was lost in the last year, let us not allow despair and hopelessness to win in the year to come. While the adversity we face in life can and will take on different shapes and forms over the years, it is ALWAYS possible to face it, overcome it, and soldier on with optimism.

I’ve lived a long enough life now to recall and recount so many examples of situations where people faced their deepest fears to emerge victoriously. In some of these situations, anger and disgust had to be waded through to usher in a significant change in the course of history or, more singularly, someone’s life direction. Even sadness has its seat at the table with optimism. Grief can help people connect and rally to triumph in unexpected ways collectively. What’s at the finish line of a life that is lived with optimism and hope? Some might call it happiness. I’d name it joy. It comes with the wisdom of knowing that the fight wasn’t often easy, but it was worth it. And no matter what the new year brings, we’re all in it together.