Lesson 41: Optimism

Young Women Manual 2, (1993), 157–60


Each young woman will seek to develop a cheerful, optimistic attitude.


  1. 1.

    Make copies of the “Attitude Test” for each class member.

  2. 2.

    Optional: Make copies of the poem by Emily Dickinson, found at the end of the lesson, for the class members.

  3. 3.

    If it is available in your area, show “The Power of Compassion,” from Family Home Evening Video Supplement (53276).

  4. 4.

    Assign young women to present any scriptures, stories, or quotations you wish.

Suggested Lesson Development



Give each young woman a copy of the attitude test. Tell the class members that the test will help them identify what kind of attitude they have and what changes they may need to make. Give them time to answer the questions.

Attitude Test

  1. 1.

    Do you often have a gloomy expression on your face?

  2. 2.

    Do you forget the many good things in your life and overemphasize the few things you lack?

  3. 3.

    Do you feel sorry for yourself?

  4. 4.

    Do you think more of yourself than of others?

  5. 5.

    Do you think you have too much to do?

  6. 6.

    Do you expect things to go wrong in your life?

  7. 7.

    Do you blame others for your moods and behaviors?

  8. 8.

    Do you think life has been unfair to you?

Teacher presentation

Ask the young women to evaluate whether negative or positive feelings are dominant in their lives. Explain that most of us will have negative feelings at times, but if we have more negative times than positive, it is possible for us to change our attitudes.

An Optimistic Attitude Brings Opportunities for Blessings

Teacher presentation

Explain that good and bad experiences will come into each of our lives. But our attitudes do not need to become bad as our circumstances become difficult. We can look at each situation optimistically and make it an opportunity to grow personally and bless others.


Tell the following story:

Marie and her family had always lived close to her grandparents and aunts and uncles in an area where there were many members of the Church. She spent a lot of time with her relatives, and she loved her high school with its strong seminary program and her many friends. At the end of her junior year, her father announced that he had decided to take a new job in a town fifteen hundred miles away. The new job would give him opportunities he had always wanted, and although he felt bad about uprooting the family, he felt that the move was the best thing to do.

Marie was heartbroken. She could not believe that she would have to leave all that she loved to go someplace she had never heard of and graduate from a high school where she knew no one. She found herself thinking constantly about all that she would be leaving behind and, despite her parents’ efforts to comfort her, cried herself to sleep every night.

One night, her mother came and sat down on her bed and said that she wanted to have a little talk. Her mother explained that she had spent her whole life in this area, that she loved the people and the familiar town, and that she had been very sad when she and her husband finally made the decision to move. But she had recognized that she could make the entire family miserable if she allowed her feelings of unhappiness and regret to overwhelm her. So she had begun to see the move as an adventure and a time to serve the Lord and her fellowmen in a way she had never been able to before.

Marie was surprised as she listened to her mother’s feelings. She hadn’t known that her mother felt anything but excitement for this change. As she started thinking about her own feelings, she realized she had not even tried to see that this change might bring new opportunities and blessings. She would be living by many people with whom she could share the gospel; she would not have as many friends at first, but she could make some; and she would have more time to get to know her brothers and sister. She decided right then that she was going to change her feelings about this move and make it the best experience she could.

Ask the young women if they have ever felt that their circumstances were so bad that they felt depressed and unhappy. If they wish to, have them explain what they did in their circumstances.

  • Did you find that the circumstances you were unhappy about gave you opportunities for growth and blessings?

Case studies

Ask the young women to listen to the following case studies and decide how the person in the story could find opportunities to bless her own life and the lives of others by changing her attitude.

Case Study 1

Laura had been dating the same boy since she was sixteen years old. She was very much in love and had always assumed that they would get married when he got back from his mission. Just after high school graduation, her boyfriend told her that he was more interested in someone else and didn’t want to date her anymore. Laura felt that her world had come to an end.

Case Study 2

Denise had grown up in a home where she had always felt loved. She enjoyed coming home and was glad for opportunities to be with her family members. When she was in high school, her father started attending church with the family less and less, and soon her parents were arguing much of the time. She no longer liked to come home, and she got depressed every time she went to church without her father. She felt as though her life had changed so much that she could never be happy again.


Read the following quotation: “We must be more concerned with what we do with what happens to us than what happens to us” (Marvin J. Ashton, in Conference Report, Oct. 1974, p. 57; or Ensign, Nov. 1974, p. 41).

Negative Thinking Hurts Our Minds and Bodies

Teacher presentation

Explain that when we feel gloomy and pessimistic, we have little enthusiasm for life. Negative attitudes, even in their mildest form, can drain energy and cause us to do poorly in school or in our relationships with others. They can even cause such physical problems as headaches, ulcers, high blood pressure, digestive problems, and heart attacks.


Discuss how a pessimistic outlook could affect a person’s activity in the Church, her ability to make friends, her ability to keep a job, and her ability to build a testimony. The following points should be included:

  1. 1.

    Other people may not enjoy the company of a negative person.

  2. 2.

    Church activities and other activities may not be as successful when directed by people who are not happy about their responsibilities.

  3. 3.

    Employers may not want someone with a pessimistic attitude and low energy level working for them.

  4. 4.

    A person with a negative attitude may have a harder time developing faith and testimony.

We Can Learn to Be Cheerful and Optimistic


Tell the following story:

“A young woman in high school, happy, vivacious, was informed by the doctors one day that it would be necessary to amputate her leg because of cancer. This was done. She went back to school on crutches, still full of life, loving every minute of it. Then she was informed that the operation had been unsuccessful and that her life was rapidly drawing to a close.

“This young woman’s attitude could have been one of bitterness toward everything in life, but instead she was an inspiration to her family and friends because of her wonderful attitude. Her own words were: ‘I am thankful for the many blessings I have received throughout life and for my wonderful parents and family. I am especially thankful for this wonderful Gospel and for those who give their time to teach it to us. …

“‘Before my operation, I prayed that my leg might be saved; but the Lord told me “No.” Afterward I thought how selfish and earthly my prayer had been. I could see only the present, and it certainly didn’t seem that there could be anything for the best in losing my leg. The Lord can see much more, and he has the best interests of our whole future and eternity in mind’” (Victor L. Brown, “Take an Attitude Test,” Instructor, Mar. 1965, pp. 90–91).

  • What was the one thing that most helped this young woman remain optimistic? (She had faith that the Lord was guiding her life for good.)


Have the young women read Doctrine and Covenants 90:24. Point out that the Lord has promised us that no matter what happens to us, if we trust in him and live righteously, he will make all things work for our good.

  • How can the information in this scripture help you to remain optimistic no matter what your circumstances are?

  • What things can you learn from circumstances that seem to be bad?

  • What are some other things that can help you be optimistic?

Chalkboard discussion

List the young women’s ideas on the chalkboard. You may want to include the following:

  1. 1.

    Count your blessings.

  2. 2.

    Learn the power of laughter.

  3. 3.

    Enjoy beautiful music and literature. They can lift your spirits.

  4. 4.

    Look for beauty everywhere you go. Look for it in nature, in art, and in the faces of loved ones.

  5. 5.

    Strive to improve yourself each day.

  6. 6.

    Look for the good in everything.

  7. 7.

    Understand and live the gospel, “for in right living there can be no remorse of conscience” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], p. 124).


Teacher presentation

Explain that we cannot always control circumstances in our lives, but we can control our attitude toward them. It is possible to develop a more cheerful, optimistic attitude that will lead to better health, more beauty within and without, closer friendships, and greater opportunities to serve the Lord and our fellowmen.

Lesson Application

Suggest that the young women try smiling more often this week. They may want to put this poem on their mirrors.

They Might Not Need Me

They might not need me; but they might.
I’ll let my head be just in sight;
A smile as small as mine might be
Precisely their necessity.

(Emily Dickinson)