Urgent optimism is one superpower that builds grit.

“Urgent optimism is the desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle, combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success.” Jane McGonigal

screen-shot-2012-07-09-at-8-55-16-am-2Video games with many opportunities to risk, fail and ultimately succeed foster an environment of “urgent optimism” IF we have a “reasonable hope of success as well as the “possibility of a truly epic win” (Kelly, 2013. p. 48.) Life Outside the Box can be a story-telling practice where children and youth draw and write scenes of their heroes practicing urgent optimism and build up perseverance. As their heroes fail, try and succeed, comic book writers see a mirror of how it might be done in real life. Just as video games are a play ground where players devote intense energy to practicing resilience and grit, so comic book creating can be a play ground for the same practice.

“We feel that we are not as good in reality as we are in games … And I don’t mean just good as in successful, although that’s part of it. We do achieve more in gainteview-jane-mcgonigal-520me worlds. But I also mean good as in motivated to do something that matters, inspired to collaborate and to cooperate. And when we’re in game worlds I believe that many of us become the best version of ourselves, the most likely to help at a moment’s notice, the most likely to stick with a problem as long at it takes, to get up after failure and try again. And in real life, when we face failure, when we confront obstacles, we often don’t feel that way. We feel overcome, we feel overwhelmed, we feel anxious, maybe depressed, frustrated or cynical. We never have those feelings when we’re playing games, they just don’t exist in games.” Jane McGonigal.

Kelley and Kelley (2013) suggest that “by adapting the best attributes of gaming culture we can shift people’s view of failure and ratchet up their willingness and determination to persevere. Jane McGonigal is looking for a way to make four “amazing superpowers: blissful productivity, the ability to weave a tight social fabric, this feeling of urgent optimism and the desire for epic meaning” relevant to real life problems. These superpowers are also character strengths that can also be practiced in comic book epic stories.


  1. Kelley, T. and Kelley, D (2013). Creative confidence: Unleashing the creative potential within us all. New York: Crown business. p. 48.
  2. Transcript of Jane McGonigal’s TED talk can be found here: https://janemcgonigal.com/2014/01/06/transcript-games-can-make-a-better-world/
  3. Video of Jane McGonigal’s TED talk can be found here: https://youtu.be/dE1DuBesGYM

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