Michael J. Fox: Adventures of an Incurable Optimist

Fox traveled the world and shares the "Adventures of an Incurable Optimist."

ByABC News via logo
May 5, 2009, 5:27 PM

May 6, 2009— -- When Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease nearly 20 years ago, he never imagined that the illness would completely redefine the way he looked at life, for the better.

"Your happiness grows in direct proportion to your acceptance and in inverse proportion to your expectations," Fox told ABC News' Diane Sawyer. "Acceptance doesn't really mean you're resigned to it. It just means acknowledging that that's what it is."

The actor and head of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research recently traveled around the world and sought out people from all walks of life, searching for the answer to one question.

Are some people just more optimistic than others? And if so, why?

Fox, 47, began his journey with a visit to Lance Armstrong's home in Texas, where he sat down with the seven-time Tour de France winner to discuss what keeps him striving. Armstrong's struggle with cancer that spread to four parts of his body led him to start LiveStrong, a foundation that offers support to cancer survivors.

Armstrong credits much of his own success on the bike to his battle with cancer.

"I don't think it's a stretch to say that none of, none of my success on the bike would have been possible without that disease," he said. "Life wouldn't have been necessarily empty, but it would not have looked like this."

Armstrong also said his optimism is inspired by his mother, who overcame her own set of challenges as a teen mom.

"I give all the credit to my mom," he said. "She's really a survivor. She's as strong and tough as they come and she never looks at anything in a negative light."

Fox sees a parallel between himself and Armstrong, because both grappled with illness as young men and both draw strength from their families. Fox's wife, actress Tracy Pollan, 48, has stood by him through the years, even though she hesitates to call herself as great an optimist as her husband.

"It goes against my natural grain," she joked.