Optimism - Is It Worth The Cost?
Posted on 7 Oct 2018
Author: Steve Vail
I have heard many over the years refer to my general attitude toward life as "perpetual optimism." While I choose to consider that reference to be complimentary, I am also acutely aware of the fact that some mean derogatorily - insinuating that I view things through my own imaginary Poly Anna type "rose-colored glasses" blissfully oblivious to reality. So that's when I ask myself, "Is it worth it?" For me and my own sense of well being, the answer is a resounding absolute yes. Some time ago I saw a keychain with a quote on it. It said something along the lines of, "Avoid disappointment - Keep your expectations low". I think that's about as pessimistic as it gets. I believe that in most cases pessimism and negative thoughts will eventually give way to negative emotions which can potentially lead to a life of sad mediocrity at best and a life of dismal misery at worst. In contrast to that, it is my belief that an optimistic lifestyle in most cases can and will lead to a life of high productivity, accomplished goals, and an overall sense of happiness and well being.
Definition of Terms
- Optimism - hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.
- Pessimism - a tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen; a lack of hope or confidence in the future.
In Most Cases...
When I say, "In most cases" I am making a disclaimer. My belief is that exceptions exist to every rule and in a wide array of situations and to dwell or focus of them is an exercise in pure folly. So to avoid becoming sidetracked by them, I have chosen to keep this post focused on the general rule.
Pessimistic Thought and Emotion
Anyone that has suffered any kind of setback or disappointment is certainly familiar with negative thoughts and emotions, and I can say for myself, flat-out depression at times. It is from this foundation that I can truly say that I fully understand the aforementioned keychain quote. However, when I finally give up on my self-indulged pitty-party, I come to another realization. Pessimism does not work well with such things as inspiration and creativity. Functioning in a productive manner while in a pessimistic frame of mind is not only counter-intuitive but also in most cases counterproductive. In other words, my desire to be more than a victim mentality, "blame the whole world" failure overrides the default inclination to angrily accept a bleak existence in which I believe has been caused by everything and everyone but myself. So it is usually at this point that I choose to embrace a more optimistic view and approach to the situation at hand.
Optimism - A Decision of the Will
There is something about achievement, success, and overcoming that lends itself toward a, if not many, feel-good moments. Optimistic thought, however, is not about reliving and dreaming about those past events. To the contrary, optimistic thought is all about believing and daring to dream of a better future. When obstacles and disappointments arise, even the self-inflicted ones, and they always will, the optimist taps into his ability to dream and create ways to overcome. He does what he must to become inspired by stories, music, and/or conversations with or about others that have overcome and succeeded against insurmountable odds. The optimist then takes the necessary actions to leave yesterday behind and starts planning for a brighter tomorrow. I am responsible for my own destiny.
Pitfalls of Being Overly Optimistic
- Inappropriate behavior for the situation - For a season it is only appropriate to grieve with those who grieve and weep with those whom weep.
- Ignoring signs that you may need to change - If you've been fired from the last three jobs in a row it would be a good idea to do some uncomfortable introspective soul searching before optimistically running off to the next job interview.
- A lack of situational awareness - the temptation to only see things through imaginary rose-colored glasses can and may cause you to miss crucial things that need changing. It can also cause you to appear to many to be a phony or someone who is out of touch with reality.
- Throwing caution to the wind - to optimistically say you're ready to go skydiving when you're not adequately trained could lead to someone getting hurt or even killed. That would fall into the category of being blissfully oblivious. Optimism is no substitute for preparation and taking appropriate safety precautions.
For Me Optimism Works
My state of what appears to many as "perpetual optimism" for the most part works for me. However, there are times when I wrestle with how to deal with my own struggles, setbacks, and disappointments. When I just can't seem to get on top of a situation, I do what I must which sometimes means counsel from an experienced counselor. Then I'm back to my perpetual optimistic way with which I am also most comfortable. Productivity, dreams of a better tomorrow, and having a sense of happiness and well being is paramount to me. I don't expect the same from everyone else, but I also know that I am not alone in having a need and desire to stay optimistic. So if you need help with it, let me know. If I can inspire even one person to reach for what seems to be the unreachable and attain that which at one time appeared to be beyond imagination, I'll count it a tremendous success.