The Optimistic Pessimist

My father loved to tell a story of the two twin brothers. One was a pessimist, the other an optimist. On their ninth birthday, the father led the pessimist son out to the backyard and presented him with a beautiful pony. The boy fretted, “What if I fall off and hurt myself!”

The father went to the optimist son and led him to a room. When the boy looked inside the room, he found a pile of manure. Delighted, he exclaimed, “Oh boy! Underneath all this manure, there must be a pony!”

How do you explain the events in your life? The lesson here is that it makes a difference how you respond to whatever life presents you. To cope with the unpredictability of life, some of us think optimistically. A positive mental attitude empowers you to be aligned with your goals, values, and dreams. For others, with a pessimistic mindset they think of what did or might go wrong and only consider the downside. In both cases, the optimistic and pessimistic mindset is the driving force to protect against future disappointment or hurt.

Yale University Professor of Organizational Behavior, B. Cade Massey, explains. “Optimism and pessimism are feelings about the future. They help us manage our expectations and our actions moving forward.” The way we choose to think, creates the world we experience. Ideally, living our life in the moment with thoughts of the future can provide the best result.

A true optimist realizes that success is a process. Optimists are adept at catching themselves in anger, doubt, fear, or worry. Once they acknowledge their deflating thoughts, they have the ability to shift their feelings and reactions. Opening to qualities of appreciation, confidence, and patience are the winds in their sails.

Optimism and pessimism are merely matters of how you look at things. Our moods and how we see our situation can change from day to day. Luckily, we can catch ourself when we get stuck in a pessimistic state of mind. If we stay stuck in the fear of the downside too long the movement forward is stagnate and we get lost in perceptions of the ‘what-if’ or ‘should be’.

Our survival and wellness require that we balance optimism and pessimism. Find wholeness from both parts of the equation. Perhaps we need to become the optimistic pessimist!

Looking from a negative point of view does not need to be permanent. Contemplating the downside can propel you to look at all angles of the situation. Pessimism can give you the push you need for cautious action.

How do you nurture what you want to grow in your life?

Whatever happens in life, our resiliency depends on believing in ourselves, our personal potential and being able to effectively balance negative emotions with positive ones.

Many of us have gone through periods of self-doubt. When we resist times of change, challenges, and stumbling blocks we can easily get stuck in a pessimist mindset. We begin to undervalue our abilities, our confidence becomes deflated, and we tend to think the worst of our situation and the future outcome. These are the times we especially need to accept our challenge and take responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. A person’s thoughts, whether positive or negative, do have an effect . Be careful which thought seeds you water.

Optimism and pessimism are two ends of a continuum. You can put on your rose-colored glasses and take them off depending on the situation. Being realistic gives you the ability to aim for favorable outcomes while also being vigilant. Embracing reality doesn’t mean you have to like all the conditions, just that you need to accept the reality and choose to do what ever is in your control to move toward creating a reality that feels good.

Balancing optimism with a little pessimism can help you get there. So be patient and grateful for the process of our life. Nurture yourself with thoughts and actions that create a life that feels good.