Are you an Optimist, a Pessimist, or a Realist?
Rev. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, NBCT, RScP
Heart-Centered Career Coach to Burnt-Out Teachers | Life Strategies & Stress Management Coach
Everyone is different, and we all have different ways of looking at the world. Think how annoying it would be if we were all the same! What a bland experience we would have.
I know that labeling people without certain caveats is dangerous. But in general people, people fall into one of three categories in their approach to the world. There are the optimists. Then there are the pessimists. And then, there are the realists. Be honest. No one needs to hear your answer but you.
Given those three choices, which one are you?
If you aren't sure, keep reading to learn more about how these different points of view are defined and how they may define you.
An optimist will generally try to make the best of a bad situation. Some say that they know how to "make lemons into lemonade." What that means is that they see everything that happens to them in a positive light. They are generally happy and upbeat individuals. They are on the lookout for the silver lining in every cloud.
A pessimist is the opposite of the optimist. Pessimists tend to see things more negatively. They also tend to believe that most things will not turn out well for them. They often complain about other people, but just as frequently, they are down on themselves. They carry a general downcast air about them. They are generally unhappy and overly critical individuals. They look for the "other shoe to drop" in a way that will harm them. They can bring you down in a heartbeat.
These are people you may want to avoid when you can if they bring you down.
A realist tends to see things as they are without judgment. They accept that things are not perfect, but they don't need to be perfect for the realistic individual to be happy. They deal with problems in a more practical way. They don't need to dramatize situations in their lives. They approach life with a more analytical view. They also don't see things as always "good" or "bad." They tend to view situations as they are.
Take a look at how these different attitudes show up in a specific example.
Let's take work as an example of how these different attitudes play out. Let's assume that there is a promotion that is about to be decided upon. An optimist looks towards the positive. If they are looked over for the promotion at work, they will try to be understanding. They may decide to think that they weren't ready for the position yet. They tell themselves that things work out for the best, and if that promotion didn't work out for them, it's okay. Another one will come along. Who knows? Maybe a better opportunity will come along shortly!
A pessimist looks at the negative side of the situation. They tend to be on the lookout for something “bad” to happen all the time. If a pessimist loses out on a promotion at work, they will take it as a personal affront. They tend to look for someone to blame. Often they blame themselves as well. They may start to look for all the reasons that they will “never” get promoted.
A realist is generally more grounded in their approach to life. When a realist loses out on a promotion, they tend to look at the bigger picture. They will be clearheaded about being passed over. They look for what they can do so that the next time there is a promotion opportunity available they will be prepared. They will try to learn from the disappointment and take steps to improve themselves.
Generally speaking, most people fall along the spectrum of categories. Not every optimist will always be positive. And not every pessimist will always be negative.
There are pros and cons to each type of personality. But research suggests that being optimistic tends to be the healthier choice.
Undoubtedly, having a positive outlook has positive benefits on your life. Studies show that people who tend to think more positively tend to get along better in the workplace. They are also physically and emotionally healthier. They feel better in general, and they tend to live longer than their negative friends.
Trying to look for the positive in things can help you improve almost any situation. Unfortunately, this is not possible all the time. But it is possible to change your attitude about your life and reap the rewards.
Can You Learn to be More Optimistic?
We all have at least one person in our lives who will see the positive in every situation. Some of us hate that person. Some of us love that person. And some of us ARE that person.
If you are not that person, you may be wondering if you can learn (or teach yourself) to be more optimistic. While some people are naturally positive, others are naturally negative. Are we capable of changing from one to the other? It may be worthwhile to try to learn to be more optimistic. This is something you can work on as you learn, grow and evolve as a person.
Start with Changing the Way You Think
It turns out that optimism is not merely the tendency to believe that things will turn out for the better. And pessimism is not just the tendency to think things will turn out badly. Instead, these terms are used to describe the way a person thinks about what causes the adversity. A pessimist tends to think about these things in a way that makes them feel powerless.
Thank goodness it is possible to change the way that you think about things. When you are faced with adversity, and the first thought you have is negative, take a step back. Try to look at it from a different angle.
For example, let's say you have an important test coming up soon. You are having difficulty understanding the material. If you feel that you are struggling, it is easy to fall into the line of thinking that you are going to fail. A healthier option is to think about ways you could better understand the material. Work on learning and studying what you need to score higher on the test. The idea is that if you are thinking you are going to fail, the chances are good that you will. Change your thought process. Be more positive as well as studying the material as much as you can improve your chances of success.
Our attitudes towards things tend to part of our temperamental outlook on life. It is possible to change the way that you think about things, though. As a result, you can learn to be more optimistic about events. The process is not as simple as reciting positive quotes to yourself. But using positive affirmations can help. The bottom line is that you can teach yourself to look at every situation from different angles. As a result, you can improve your attitude about whatever the case is.
Can Optimism Help you in the Workplace?
Trying to find happiness in the workplace can be difficult. There are many questions you may likely ask yourself each day, such as; should you work for yourself? Should you try to get a promotion? Do you need to be more demanding or less demanding in the office? Is it time to look for something altogether new?
The decisions you make at work will be based at least in part on your personality, your ability, and your core values. Your emotions will also come into play. This is important to consider since being optimistic or pessimistic impacts your emotions.
Optimist versus Pessimist in the Workplace
As far as your work environment, there are different outlooks that you can adopt. You can choose to be optimistic about what is going on, or you can be pessimistic about it. Here is an example of something that may come up in the workplace. Consider how a pessimist versus an optimist may handle each.
One argument in today’s world stems from technology and its effect on the job market. An optimist may take the view that even though technology cuts some jobs, new jobs will take their place. Some of those jobs have not even been envisioned yet, much less created. A pessimist may feel that there are a finite number of posts to had and therefore a finite number of possibilities. Once technology replaces those jobs, there won't be any jobs to replace them. They will take the dark view of the situation.
As you can see, the pessimist is thinking the worst. He thinks that jobs will be depleted by the growth of technology. The optimist, however, points out that technology can help to create all sorts of new jobs. Who knows how things will go? But the optimist will be expecting the best while the pessimist expects the worst.
Improving the Workplace Environment
Being optimistic about the future helps you see a different point of view about the future. But besides that, it can also improve your current situation. When considering your office situation, you may think about all that needs to be done to improve it. If you think positively about the changes that need to be made it can help improve your attitude about it. Changing your thoughts about it will improve the environment in general. Positive thoughts tend to lead to positive actions. That is why being an optimist at work can lead to greater happiness and satisfaction with your job.
What I suggest is that you take some time to consider your personal outlook on the world. If you tend to fall into the category of the pessimist, make some time for yourself to consider how that serves you. Maybe you are perfectly happy seeing the world in a negative light.
If you aren't happy, however, consider that you are the only one who can change that. Other people and events will not make you happy. You are 100% responsible for how your experience in the world. If you choose to see it as a dark and negative place, that is what you will likely get in return.
We are each totally responsible for how we respond to the world and the people around us. We get to choose how we respond 100% of the time. So, what choice will you make?
Until next time.
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