When my dear friend and colleague, Roger Brown, was alive he used to say that to him, I define the edge of the optimism continuum. I think my outlook explains my choice of research topics. Instead of describing what is, most of my work is aimed at exploring what might be. In my most recent book – Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility – I explicitly discuss extending what we take as limits to our physical health and well being. I don’t understand why I’m so confident that we’ve just scratched the surface of what our consciousness is capable, but every year and every experiment I do makes me more certain that the future will only vaguely resemble the past in this regard. I don’t know how I came to these views, or whether in the long run people like me will “win or lose” to the cynics. One thing I do know, however, is while the future unfolds and we find out, people like me are having a better time as we consider all sorts of possibility. So, I remain optimistic about being optimistic.
Ellen Langer is Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. She has received many honours for her work, including the Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest from the American Psychological Association.
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