Can You be an Optimistic Realist?

Written by Susan Dunn, MA, Life & EQ Coach

One question you might have when you read this title is, “Why I want to be an optimist?” Or, even, “How could I be optimistic with liferepparttar way it is?” or “Who could be an optimist in today’s world?

And “today’s world” may mean to you that office you work in that’s so hopelessly understaffed and disorganized, or your inept boss, or terrorism, starvation and violence inrepparttar 126073 world, your personal inadequacies for facing your personal challenges,repparttar 126074 lack of help aroundrepparttar 126075 house, your hyper 2 year old twin boys, spending your days reeling amongrepparttar 126076 emotional states of your teenagers, your midlife-crisis spouse, and your aging mother, or any ofrepparttar 126077 above.

I was reminded of this dilemma when I was corneredrepparttar 126078 other morning by a young woman who needed to get in my face aboutrepparttar 126079 fact that her husband had gotten in her face that morning aboutrepparttar 126080 “idiocy” of watchingrepparttar 126081 Prince Charles thing when there were more important things going on inrepparttar 126082 world.

Byrepparttar 126083 end of his tirade he had listed terrorism, cancer,repparttar 126084 national budget crisis, andrepparttar 126085 legal system as things more worthy of our attention that were, atrepparttar 126086 same time, hopelessly screwed up. Byrepparttar 126087 end of his tirade, her husband’s “pessimistic attitude” had been added torepparttar 126088 list, as having “ruined” her day. And, had I allowed it, I could’ve added torepparttar 126089 list that her retelling ofrepparttar 126090 war story had “ruined” mine.

Let’s face it: it’s easier to be cynical. It’s also more realistic to be cynical.

If you’rerepparttar 126091 kind of person who has a need to be right, betting thatrepparttar 126092 work project will be screwed up, thatrepparttar 126093 marriage will never last, and that Bush will make another decision that will fail to makerepparttar 126094 world perfect are surer bets thanrepparttar 126095 opposite.

And so, if you’re negative and pessimistic, you’ll more often be right. But look at what else you’ll get: you’ll attract to yourself people who feelrepparttar 126096 same way and will join you in a negative downward spiral; you’ll be quick to blame anything but yourself, leaving yourself feeling hopeless and helpless as well as angry; you’ll waste a lot of time belaboringrepparttar 126097 obvious; and you’ll also stress yourself and your immune system.

Negative thinking leads to negative emotions which bring on physiological reactions which can damage your health inrepparttar 126098 short-term and inrepparttar 126099 long-term. Being optimistic doesn’t mean not being realistic.

It means making choices that influence outcomes, because they can also be self-fulfilling. If you’re sure your secretary is going to fail you again, she will. We are all influenced byrepparttar 126100 energy around us, and who can function when someone is hovering around them who thinks she or he is “an idiot”? Also, if you’re determined she will fail you, you must make that happen to defend your ego, and so what else can you think when it’s over? She failed you.

Realism would say – if you truly hiredrepparttar 126101 wrong person, don’t be a victim. Take care ofrepparttar 126102 problem.

If you hired a person who, like everyone else, has good days and bad, works in an imperfect system, has to try and read your mind and accommodate to your admittedly difficult disposition at times, and is over-worked, don’t playrepparttar 126103 victim – look atrepparttar 126104 system and see what you can do to make things work better, assuming (optimistically) that this is possible, i.e., things will never be perfect, but they can generally be improved upon, and YOU arerepparttar 126105 one to do it.

You could start, in that instance, with your own attitude and expectations.

In fact, if you want to makerepparttar 126106 world a better place, start with your secretary’s “world.” Get it?

Pragmatically speaking – that is, if you want to function inrepparttar 126107 real world – an optimistic view works better. It gives yourepparttar 126108 energy to make things happen, because it gives you positive emotional energy.

Functionally-speaking, it is wiser to be optimistic. Optimism is a tool, therefore. If you can still that voice in your head that says everything stinks, you can begin to see what you can do about things as they are, some of which, yes, “stink,” but not all.


Written by Pauline Wallin, Ph.D.

Picture this scene: Little Johnny's mother places a large piece of chocolate cake on his plate. He's pretty happy with it -- until he glances over at his brother's portion and notices that it's even bigger than his own. Suddenly Johnny is no longer satisfied with what he got. He starts to pout and complain, and may even resort to throwing his cake onrepparttar floor.

Sound familiar? If you didn't have this experience growing up, you have surely observed it in others. And it's not only kids who engage in this sort of comparison. Adults do it too.

Suppose you get a 10% raise at work. "That's pretty good," you might say to yourself. But a few days later you find out that someone else got 12%. Now you're not so pleased. Your inner brat starts grumbling about your raise not being fair, or not being nearly enough.

The actual dollar amount of your raise hasn't changed, but your attitude toward it has. Why?

It's a result of what psychologists call "social comparison." Humans are social animals, so it's natural to view ourselves in relation to other people. It's not necessarily bad, either:

- Much of our helping behavior and charitable giving come from comparing our own circumstances with those who are less fortunate.

- Social comparison is useful in situations where we're not quite sure how to act. Let's say you're attending services at a house of worship whose rituals and procedures are unfamiliar to you. You'll probably look around and see what everyone else is doing so that you can follow along.

- Social comparison contributes to order in society. When people dress, behave and speak in similar ways they feel a sense of belonging and loyalty withinrepparttar 126072 group.

BUT THERE IS A DOWNSIDE TO SOCIAL COMPARISON. Routinely comparing yourself to others -- especially when it comes to money, talent, recognition and material possessions -- will invariably lead to dissatisfaction, even if you come out on top.

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