Abstract:Optimism is a key ingredient that helps improve quality of life. Human life is governed not only by the life-altering decisions, but also by the daily choices an individual makes and an optimistic approach plays a major role in life’s fulfilment. As a student in my mid-20s entering into the corporate world, I strongly feel that an optimistic outlook towards life’s ups and downs will help achieve happiness and a good balance between work and life, especially as years pass by and the responsibilities increase.
In recent years, considerable research has been carried out to examine the development of optimism across the lifespan. One of the studies analyses over 1000 Mexican-origin couples between the ages 26-71 across 7 years by conducting a Life Orientation Test to measure optimism (Schwaba et al., 2019), while another study analysed little less than 10000 Americans between the ages 51 to 97 across 4 years (Chopik et al., 2015) and another analysed a sample of over 20000 British and German citizens on household and socio-economic levels respectively (Baird et al.
, 2010). Studies have also been carried out to measure attributes like life satisfaction and self esteem that greatly influence optimism (Orth & Robins, 2014). With the help of the research, the paper explores how optimism which is lowest in the 20s steadily increases in people’s 30s and 40s and is at its peak between the ages 50 and 60 and then steadily drops afterwards, thus following an inverted U shape on the optimism-lifespan graph. Also, how culture, socio-economic background, societal influence greatly affect an individual’s optimism will be discussed. Further research can help to improve a sense of optimism among youngsters itself, thus improving future study results.IntroductionPositive psychology, a newly recognized domain of psychology, studies the meaning, purpose and enhancement of life. Since the inception of psychology as a research subject, it has focussed on finding everything that is wrong with the mental health of the body. Researchers have categorized particular states of human mind on the basis of their deviation from the so called normal’ state of function. Their focus of research has always been on understanding various illnesses or abnormalities associated with the physical and emotional functioning of the brain and the different techniques of treatment or medications through which these dysfunctions can be cured. With the advent of this new field of positive psychology, researchers have turned their focus to study how life could be made worth living. The study of positive psychology does not completely eliminate the consideration of abnormal psychology but actually works in parallel with it. It analyses the genuineness of positive attributes like optimism and hope with reference to the abnormalities and investigates the source and development of these positive emotions. It also examines positive human feelings like happiness, satisfaction, well-being, positive thoughts according to age, gender, region, genetics and background. The pursuit of all these human virtues leads to achieving content in life. Optimism is one such characteristic that helps human beings interpret the best out of any crucial circumstances, thus reducing stress and increasing longevity. Today, we live in a world of ever-growing competition, some people compete to grow while others compete to survive. Amidst all this competition, we tend to forget the fact that the reason the whole competition started was so that we could achieve eventual happiness and satisfaction. But as human beings grow more intelligent and adaptive than before, the pace of growth begins to accelerate and the competition never ends. This gave birth to the concept of micro-happiness, where people feel happy and satisfied about the small, everyday moments and occurrences that bring about positive change in their lives, which is strongly driven by optimism. As a millennial studying in this competitive atmosphere, enjoying the little moments of happiness at every successful step towards achieving my goals will ensure the well-being of myself as well as the people associated with me. As my journey transitions into the professional corporate world and as responsibilities grow, having a positive outlook towards different situations and circumstances in life will ensure in achieving a more fulfilled life. While facing life’s most critical turning points, optimism and faith in my work and efforts have helped me reach where I am today. Hence I strongly believe that learning more about the different subdomains of positive psychology like optimism, happiness, character strengths and virtues, hope, etc. will help me lead my life with satisfaction.Experimental StudiesOptimism, like an any other human trait, varies according to age. This has been critically inspected through extensive research. One of the studies evaluated a sample of 1169 Mexican-American couples between the ages 26-71, 4 times across 7 years with the help of a Life Orientation Test to assess the age-graded development trajectory of optimism across adulthood based on questions related to positive and negative life events (Schwaba et al., 2019). In order to assess the mean-value path of optimism, a series of quadratic cohort-sequential latent growth curve models were estimated so as to aggregate the data and measure it across the age group factor only and create a best fitting model after comparing it to three different categories (Schwaba et al., 2019). It was observed that optimism increases from the age 26 and is at its peak at the age of 55 and then plateaus at that age thus asserting that dispositional optimism is a dynamic personality trait that increases with age depending on the experience of positive or negative life events. A similar study considered a sample of 9790 American respondents between the ages 51 and 97 with majority having good college education and health conditions for a period of 4 years using the Life Orientation Test ” Revised by asking a series of questions and expecting their answers based on an agree to disagree level scale (Chopik et al., 2015). After segregating the participants into two waves based on health, the responses were measured across three effects namely, linear, quadratic and cubic using regression models (Chopik et al., 2015). The findings revealed that optimism progressively increased in adults from age 50 to 70 and then decreased after the age of 70, showing a peak value at the age of 68 thus raising the question whether it is the age or the changes in health due to ageing, the main cause of variations in optimism. Just as optimism varies with age, its outcome like life satisfaction also alters with age. One of the cross-sectional and longitudinal studies assesses life satisfaction with age using three perspectives, classical, essentialist and socio-emotional on two different categories, a German Socio-economic Panel and a British Household Panel with over 20000 participants from each panel study (Baird et al., 2010). Both categories show little to no decline in life satisfaction from adulthood through middle-age until the mid 70s and then decline steadily after due to increasing health problems and loss of social support, but reflect different graphs, one with a steadily increasing at first and then dropping while the other remaining constant throughout the middle age and then dropping (Baird et al., 2010). Although the study assures a decline in life satisfaction towards end of life, it still has ambiguities regarding the changes from adulthood to middle-age, thus giving more scope to asses parameters influencing age like background, personality and experiences. Another prime outcome of optimism is self-esteem which has a tendency to change with increasing age. Several longitudinal studies have been carried out, based on large and representative samples from 1800 to 7000 participants, long study periods ranging from 12 to 29 years, multiple waves of data and sophisticated modelling techniques like latent-trait state model (Orth & Robins, 2014). Again a main observation was how self esteem increased from adolescence to middle adulthood, peaked between 50 and 60 years and then acceleratingly decreased, primarily because of socio-economic factors, health and experiences (Orth & Robins, 2014). Most importantly, the findings assert that higher self esteem enables individuals better health, relationship, work opportunities thus improving quality of life. All kinds of studies reflect one key finding, a common trajectory. The typical review of the positive personality quirks of optimism, life satisfaction and self esteem increasing from youth through adulthood, peaking at a middle age and then declining towards the end shows an inverted U-shape trajectory (Schwaba et al., 2019). The peak values have been fluctuating between the ages 55 and 70 (Schwaba et al., 2019). The main reasons for this gradual inclination of positive values among the youth is the enthusiasm, courage to take up responsibilities and the constant exposure to new experiences, which chiefly come from a growing age. Younger people look forward to encountering numerous life changing experiences and make efforts towards their possibility. Despite facing failures or negative experiences, the enthusiasm arising from the youth, help them stay positive and push their limits. That is why the studies that included negative experiences in the survey do not face issues of lower optimism scales due to the participants feeling dejected after encountering negative emotions. Studies reviewing the youth facing aftermaths of the global economic crises have showed positive results owing to their faith in neo-liberalism and hard-work (Franceschelli & Keating, 2018). The young generation have shown an optimistic attitude towards their future in spite of facing serious difficulties and struggles with their belief to overcome obstacles by working diligently (Franceschelli & Keating, 2018). Despite achieving a common ground, there are still discussions over what actually inflicts optimism, whether it is age, health, personality or motivation through experience. Where most of the findings reveal a drop in optimism after middle age, a strong reasoning would be the deteriorating health and motivation at old age. Findings have also confidently stated that, although positive life events encourage optimism, negative life events show similar traits due to the strong belief and motivation to change the negative circumstances into positive. Though another important parameter to be considered is the categorization of experiences into an additional event of neutral condition, where a participant could asses a neutral experience and avoid inflation of either results. Also, although a large sample space helps in reducing the effect of the personality criterion, much research needs to be carried out to eliminate the personality criterion from the statistical models to achieve more accurate results to evaluate the effect of age. Factors such as socio-economic background, societal pressure and region have also shown major effects on the results. Further research can help to improve an understanding about optimism, thus opening new avenues and improving future study results. ConclusionIt can be effectively evaluated from the various studies and the findings that the development in age plays a key role in varying the optimism of individuals. Current research shows an inverted U shape trajectory on the optimism-lifespan graph, increasing from an individual’s 20s, peaking between 50 and 60 and then rapidly declining after 70s. Along with optimism, studies also analyse the outcomes of optimism like life satisfaction and self esteem, which also show similar trajectories. It must be noted that, although some studies followed the U-shape trajectory, many others showed a different observation, initially declining and then shooting upwards (U-shape), while some results showed high optimism among youngsters. I strongly feel that culture, socio-economic background, societal influence will greatly affect an individual’s attitude towards life and hence his beliefs and future prospects. The entire paper has evaluated different studies with age group of 20 and above. I believe that extensive research must be carried out on children and teenagers to assess their take on optimism. If positive attributes like optimism, self-esteem, hope and satisfaction are analysed among children and teenagers and with efforts could be imbibed at a very young age, the current condition of lower optimism levels in growing adults would increase significantly.