Some months ago I was engaged in a frustrating mental battle with myself resulting in some very sleepless nights, this was due to an unnerving experience I had with a client which left me with a feeling of foreboding and the possibility of paradise lost.

The client had over a two hour period unburdened himself informing me that he saw no future for him and the country claiming we were all destined to end up in the poor house, we were finished and we might as well give up.

Walking back to my car, I reflected back almost thirty years to a time when I landed in Sydney as an immigrant. A time of optimism, endless opportunities and possibilities a far cry from my homeland of which I had left for the last time to start a new life down under. Had that magical environment of my adopted country gone?

Stewing over this gentlemen’s comments I started to question the validity of his arguments, was he being extreme in his feelings or was there a grain of truth in what he was so forcefully advocating?. By the time I reached home I could see how he may have reached some of his conclusions.

Of course the face of Australia not unlike many other countries had changed, a myriad of global events had seen to that, from globalisation, the advance of technology, financial collapses and much more.

The sense of innocence and tranquility that we may have once enjoyed has seemingly disappeared as we have had to deal with a changed competitive world ensuring a much tougher existence for all our people. In times gone by the trademark of our character had been to treat adversity with scorn and face the challenges full on, no matter what they may have been. There is clear evidence that this resolve is today being severely tested.

The torch of leadership held by our politicians has always open to criticism, it has been a national sport only in truth they have had the grudging respect of most of the nation. No more it seems as in recent times they have displayed a distinct lack of leadership in working for the best interests of its citizens being replaced with a desperate ugly clamouring to either cling on to or grab power. The conclusion has been reached the population has lost total confidence in their abilities to lead us through these turbulent times and that we have lost a vital constituent part of our proud culture.

Add this to growth of a media bombarding us with messages of doom and gloom about our future, no wonder this poor chap wanted to give up the ghost. One could easily see how people thought processes may be altered or compromised inducing a state of negativity.

Back to my internal stoush, I agonised about my own position was this unfolding situation any of my business, was it a tsunami that would wash over us regardless, pointless to resist? Was my ego ruling my head if I allowed myself the luxury of believing I could contribute in somehow creating renewed optimism within Australia?

I finally resolved I was going to take that step, recognising this may be seen by many as a worthless venture by someone with “rocks in his head” and totally devoid of reality.

What struck me that was being missed is that many Australians are striving to create opportunities, working in meaningful jobs and services. To get to our future, it will be different, the old norms are disappearing and there will be pain but what is the alternative, do we follow the lead of my client and throw in the towel. Somehow I cannot believe we can allow that to happen.

I concluded the only way I could test my own feelings was to engage in multiple conversations with a wide cross section of people and request that they share their views and opinions. It was obvious that many respondents were feeling that their lives were being blighted by the air of negativity that now pervaded the country; these included a diverse set of people from different backgrounds.

What was encouraging rather than being ridiculed there was a sense of a need to do something and not to allow our way of lives to be dismantled or even lost.
The result of this research has been the establishment of Optimism Australia an initiative to promote realistic positive thinking across the country amongst companies, individuals and communities utilsing practical methodologies and realistic perspectives.

Time will tell if this initiative will be successful but I fervently believe it is a risk worth taking. What I do know is that I owe that anguished gentleman a case of wine for waking my passion for my country something I believe we are all guilty of letting go from time to time.

Ken Wood
Optimism Australia