First, let me say this is no Pollyanna-type optimism book. O’Grady never becomes cutesy or unrealistic in the optimism she promotes. The book is filled with real-life examples of how people can find themselves mentally and emotionally in a better, less negative state in life, and also how their improved attitude can bring them more of everything they wish they could have by using some simple tools that revolve around changing their attitudes and viewpoints.
Robin is brutally honest about her own journey as she uses it to illustrate the points in this book. She has known her fair share of bad experiences, including an often impoverished childhood, overcoming substance abuse, and going through divorce. A lot of people would use those experiences as an excuse to throw a lifelong pity party, but Robin realized early on that she had to be responsible for her life, rather than blaming others.
Her life changed in 1988 when she knew she had to make a change and got down on her knees and prayed for help, then found the guidance to call her brother and have him take her to the local hospital’s detoxification unit. After that, Robin decided she would use her story to help others overcome the obstacles holding them back from knowing happiness. As she points out, what happened to her in her past is her old story, but she decided to tell a new story, something any of us can do at any moment.
Perhaps the biggest thing we have to tackle in creating our new story is letting go of negativity. It’s the easier choice to be negative rather than positive, but negativity does not serve us in moving toward the amazing life we want. Throughout The Optimist’s Edge, Robin offers tools and exercises to help people learn to discard old and negative ways of thinking that no longer serve them. These tools include how to determine which relationships are toxic and which people you need to get rid of in your life, and why doing so isn’t really unkind because those people will quickly find someone else to complain to. She also offers tools to help you avoid taking on the negativity of others.
One tool I particularly found helpful was the idea of non-interference and how we can’t control others so we shouldn’t interfere in their lives. As Robin points out, not interfering is a way to show love and it allows people to learn to trust in themselves and make their own decisions. I loved how she describes this idea as: “Let go of the steering wheel if it’s not your car! Steer your own car and let others steer theirs.”
Negativity adds to the stress in our lives, and so Robin offers tools on coping with stress that I found very useful, such as staying focused on the task at hand rather than stressing over the ones for later today or tomorrow; starting your day over right now; and realizing that all is well because at this moment your feet are on the ground, there is a roof over your head, your heart is beating, and you are okay.
I also appreciated that Robin walks her talk. Having known poverty, she believes in helping others so no one is left behind. She tells the touching story of the homeless Miracle Man in this book, which I’ll leave for readers to discover. She also has helped to organize three different homeless housing programs. As she states at one point in the book, “Whenever possible, give others hope.”
The book concludes with Robin discussing her Five Star Success System that, ultimately, encompasses all of the points of her book, showing people in what order to make changes in their lives. The exercises throughout the book really help readers to stop and think and make the changes necessary to improve their lives. The book is also filled with wonderful inspirational quotes; I think my favorite of all of these, which largely summarizes the book’s whole philosophy, is the quote from Albert Ellis: “The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.”
If you want to change your life, even just to be a little happier, reading The Optimist’s Edge and then putting into practice the tools it offers is a great place to start, and if you still need help beyond that, Robin also offers life coaching and other coaching services. Many of the tools in this book have worked for me so I know they will work for anyone willing to make a change. I could say far more about this book, but I’m optimistic that I have said enough to encourage people to adopt “the optimist’s edge” for themselves.
For more information about Robin B. O’Grady and The Optimist’s Edge, visit the author’s website.