Optimism, Pessimism, Realism: Which is Better?
Is the glass half empty or half full? If life hands you lemons, would you rather complain about them than make lemonade? If your motto is something along the lines of to expect the worst and you won’t be disappointed, you might wonder why anyone would bother with optimism. You might even think that being a pessimist leaves you better prepared for the challenges and disappointments that life throws your way, but does it really? Can you ever change?
Pessimists and Outcomes
You can’t change events just with positive thinking, but positive thinking can still affect outcomes in certain ways. Pessimists tend to see things as largely outside of their control, and if you convince yourself that this is a fact, you are less likely to take action to improve things. Pessimism can also affect how you come across to other people. This might mean that that you don’t make a good impression in certain settings, such as job interviews.
When to Be a Realist
You’re not entirely wrong if you think that there might be some drawbacks to optimism. Looking on the bright side is not a bad thing, but optimism can become a problem when it overwhelms your problem-solving ability. When things are genuinely out of your control and there is nothing more you can do to affect outcomes, it can help to tell yourself that everything will turn out fine. However, both positive and negative people can fall into the same trap, which is assuming that they shouldn’t do anything because the outcome is already set. A better approach is to expect the best but also to take steps to help ensure that conditions are optimal. Especially in situations, like navigating the career labyrinth, that are partially within your control and partially in the hands of outside influences.
A blend of optimism and realism may be the best approach. Maybe there is something that you need and cannot afford, such as an urgent home or car repair. Neither thinking that it will all eventually work out or that nothing will ever get better is useful. A better approach would be to make a plan that you then think positively about. How could you get the money for what you need? You don’t have time to work an extra job and there’s no room in the budget. With some brainstorming, you might come up with the idea of taking out a personal loan to pay for it over time. Both a realistic approach to problem solving plus the belief that you are capable of solving the problem helped you find a solution.
The truth is that both ends of the spectrum have something to offer, and this is why falling somewhere in the middle as a realist is the best approach. The realist gets fully informed about a situation in order to prepare for best- and worst-case scenarios but doesn’t assume that either are inevitable. They know that outcomes are achieved through a mixture of persistence, good planning, hard work and luck. If you can take this approach in your own life, you can accomplish a great deal.
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