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Could Optimism Be Holding You Back?

Recently the Wall Street Journal health and wellness section asked the question: is the glass half full or empty?  

Optimism vs Pessimism is a hot topic these days with people searching for ways to increase optimism.

We know that there are many, many wellness benefits to looking on the bright side and viewing life through an optimistic lens. But this article challenged popular thinking by saying that a dose of pessimism is a good thing!

The article suggested that if you are a pessimist and you think the world will constantly disappoint you, then when things go relatively well you can be pleasantly surprised. Adding a little pessimism to your life could also give you a competitive advantage by helping you avoid optimistic bias. But how can you manage expectations in a healthy way to receive a better-than-expected outcome? How can you balance pessimism with optimism without becoming a grumpy old curmudgeon?

Could optimism hold you back?

The article suggested that people who are optimistic tend to blame external factors for why bad things happen. The implication is that optimists relinquish ownership or responsibility and instead distract and separate themselves from negative events. Optimistic bias is a tendency to see ourselves better than others.

I consider myself an optimist in progress. By that I mean I am not naturally a glass half full kind of person. I have learned over many years the benefits of being an optimist. Identifying the positives in my life has allowed me to recognize what is going well and appreciate all of my blessings.

Each and every day is a blessing in and of itself.  Pessimists often lose sight of the positives and spend energy on unrealistic fears and concerns. In my coaching and counseling practice, many people come to me depressed and anxious about situations and concerns which ultimately are never as bad as they think them to be.

How do you manage expectations?

I have even had someone say to me they prefer to be negative all of the time because when things go right they are pleasantly surprised.  It wasn’t a surprise that same person struggled with depression for many years.

I have found that when people learn the overwhelming health benefits of being optimistic and begin to recognize the positive things in their lives they can use that to help them better manage through life’s obstacles and pitfalls.

It’s all about RESILIENCY!

Being optimistic doesn’t mean that everything negative is someone else’s fault.   When you make a mistake – which we all do – you can take responsibility for it, look to find a solution and move past it quicker when you have a positive outlook.

It’s about being resilient and able to better deal with obstacles faster and more appropriately. What benefit is there to constantly dwell on the negative?

Would you be more prepared if you constantly thought about what could go wrong? Maybe, but you may also be too depressed or preoccupied to properly handle obstacles as they arise.  

Realistic Optimism.

It is very possible to be a realistic optimist. This is someone who is happy with their life but understands that things will not always be perfect and that is ok.

They can deal with obstacles appropriately without dwelling on them or ignoring them.

They can get up faster when knocked down.

Life is not just about what happens to you, it is how you respond that makes all the difference!

Guest Post written by Cara Maksimow, LCSW, CPC. You can learn more about Cara here.

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