What SpongeBob taught me about Optimism

What SpongeBob taught me about Optimism
Photo by Pille R. Priske / Unsplash

Recently, I’ve been watching SpongeBob while I eat dinner, reliving a childhood favorite and my associated memories. The show never fails to make me laugh silly.

Now, being a little older and marginally more mature, I notice and admire SpongeBob’s relentless optimism.

SpongeBob always keeps his cool and finds positives in his struggles. He is a master at perspective re-framing.

The Driving Test

In the episode “No Free Rides,” SpongeBob fails his driving test and is informed he will have to retake the class again. This will take an extra year.

SpongeBob’s response (singing): “I’m gonna get my driver’s license and it’s only gonna take one more year, one more year, one more super duper year. One more super-spectacular, extra-magical, extra-fantastical year!

Why is he excited to retake the class?

From his perspective, it means only one more year until he earns his license. He believes this, even though that outcome isn't guaranteed.

For most college students, retaking a class lands between a huge annoyance and completely devastating. A waste of time and money.

Against all cynical logic, SpongeBob feels the opposite.

I watch SpongeBob face challenges and compare my internal reaction to his. His response is always brighter than my immediate reaction.

It made me realize that optimism is better than cynicism and that I need to rewire my mind.

Yeah, no shit…

This might not be a groundbreaking revolution. Finding the bright side is, of course, more important than the negatives.

For me, it was a breakthrough.

I defaulted to cynicism during much of my teenage life, reserving optimism for the cases it favored. I think that’s something every teenager goes through.

The question is, when do you grow out of it?

Below are examples that show the power of optimism.

Example 1: Perspective Poker

Optimism and Cynicism are two ways to approach the same problem. Different perspectives on the same set of cards: You can play your hand or fold (throw the cards away).

Folding makes sense in a game like poker, but why fold in real life? Each day is a fresh hand of cards: If you play and fail today, you can try again tomorrow.

If your daily strategy is to fold, you will never improve.

Cynicism sees rejection as the answer. Rejecting is safe and secure, but it undeniably stagnates.

Example 2: Mr. Cynicism and Mr. Optimism

Mr. Cynicism is fruitless because he doesn’t make any attempts to address the issue. He starts and finishes at the starting line.

Mr. Optimism pushes forward through the challenging. His efforts are often pointless or misguided, but they are doing something.

Optimism drives momentum.

Closing thoughts

I’d rather be hopeful and disappointed than expect the worst and be correct.

It’s best to use both as tools for change. I now favor optimism, but it’s essential to be realistic. Everything in life is a shade of gray, and optimism vs. cynicism is no different.