Opinion

Optimism: A challenge for government, an opportunity for business

- June 13, 2022 4 MIN READ
child's hands sticking a sunshine drawing onto a rainy window pane

What’s the biggest challenge for the Albanese Government cabinet? First, implement prime minister Albanese’s vision and commitment to an optimistic Australia and an optimistic government, writes Victor Perton, founder and Chief Optimism Officer of The Centre for Optimism.

On election eve, Mr Albanese said, “I want a country where hope and optimism are the major emotions projected from our national government to the Australian people.”

At his home doorstep before heading to Canberra to be sworn in, Mr Albanese said, “I want to lead a government that has the same sentiment of optimism and hope that defines the Australian people. I want to be positive and channel the opportunity we have to shape change, so we bring people with us on the journey of change.”

And during his visit to Indonesia, Mr Albanese tweeted “President @jokowi is ambitious about #Indonesia’s future and I share his #optimism.”

That’s a good thing, as both Australians and Indonesians yearn for realistic and infectiously optimistic leaders and a positive national narrative. The leaders are aligned in picking up that sentiment.

“There is no country on earth that prospers without optimism,” said Indonesian President Joko Widodo two years ago.

Aussies craving optimism

Our research over five years at The Centre for Optimism and The Australian Leadership Project shows Australians want a positive, optimistic national narrative. They want stories of hope and optimism, not fear, dissension and discord.

Our global stereotype is that of an optimistic people; the prime minister is right to want to make the reality meet the image.

Brave, strong woman wearing superhero cape and mask

With a twenty-year decline in personal optimism and optimism about the nation, we have seen a doubling of the number of Australians medicated for anxiety and depression. In one of the most prosperous countries on earth, politicians have been compelled to plead that Australians are ‘doing it hard’.

With the prime minister wanting to project optimism and hope, the opportunity is there for the private sector.

Modern government is not well-equipped to deliver hope and optimism. Risk minimisation and risk avoidance has become the art of managers. There is a fear of failure inhibiting policy innovation.

Yet business, and especially the entrepreneurs and small businesspeople, live and die through optimism; a belief that good things will happen and that things will work out in the end. And if it hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end.

As Australian mining entrepreneur Chris Gale told me,“As an entrepreneur, you have to be an eternal optimist.”

I spent time with American entrepreneur, T. Boone Pickins, who famously said, “A good plan and hard work helped me get there, but neither are possible without healthy optimism. So, be the eternal optimist.”

Recently, the Bendigo Chamber of Commerce asked me to run a workshop on Optimism: The How and Why. The most inspiring part of my workshops is when I go around the room asking each participant what makes them optimistic. The 60 answers we heard left us walking on air.

Last year, The Centre for Optimism produced a New Optimistic National Narrative, shared with the political parties, which received a very positive response from all parties and we were pleased to see our phrases and ideas appearing in speeches, debates and press conferences.

The Centre will be updating the Framing document, taking into account the election results and the new government structures.

tower of wooden blocks with face emojis

So why an opportunity for business?

Remember, the global stereotype of Australians is that of the joyful, relentless optimist. No matter where you go in the world to do business, the doors will open for you because people love that aura of the Australian. So, we want the stereotype to match the reality.

How can you do it?

Gandhi famously said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”

So, how can you make yourself and your team more infectiously optimistic? The Centre for Optimism and Project Optimism have identified 14 habits of the optimist.

Let’s focus on three:

  1. Smile and say ‘hello’ to everyone: in the office, on the street and in the household. In a recent IAG poll, 95 per cent of Australians would like to be smiled at and greeted by strangers, but most of them are too shy! You be the one who delivers.
  2. Change your greeting: How many hundreds of times have you said, “Hello, how are you?” to be greeted with, “Not bad”? What a waste! Try something like, “What’s been the best thing in your day?”
  3. Laugh more! Reader’s Digest was right, “Laughter is the best medicine”.

How can you help the new government create “a country where hope and optimism are the major emotions projected from our national government”?

Most importantly, share your stories of hope and optimism. Share the stories of your clients and your team. Use social media.

And invite the new Ministers and their public servants to visit your business and hear your stories of success, vision, hope and optimism. They will share it with their networks to the mutual benefit of your business and the nation.


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