For a reason: Optimism versus Pessimism
We hear that one a lot don’t we? “Everything happens for a reason!” Indeed. I know I heard a few of you cringe as this may sound like nails on a black board for some. I do understand the irritation because these words have become conversation fillers that everyone turns to in awkward situations. Hence (I love using that word, makes me feel superior), this quite inspiring phrase has thereby been stripped of its original charm and beauty. Despite that, I do believe that things truly happen for a reason. We may not see those reasons right away or ever, but they are there. It all depends on our state of mind and general perception of things. Are you able to see through a mistake and still manage to fetch a solution? What can be learnt from a minor or large disaster? The Answer: a lot and on many levels.
Tea with the Optimist, the Pessimist and the Realist
William Arthur War once said that “the pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails" and somewhere in there, the opportunist drinks the half empty or half full glass of water. I disagree. Sure, the realist has both feet on the ground and will react more adaptively, probably avoiding a rougher path. However, I don’t like the way the optimist is depicted here (ok so I’m totally biased). Optimists aren’t necessarily blinded by their uplifting and positive outlook. They believe in the good and in the best of situations. They will get a learning experience from their loss and increase their knowledge and skills through it. So will the pessimists – though the ride will be more of a drag with them. It has also been demonstrated that optimistic individuals develop healthier relationships and enjoy better physical and mental health as well (Martinuzzi, 2006). Well obviously! If your dominant thoughts are continuously negative, why bother with anything at all? I view optimism as the foundation of internal drive. It's also more fun. How does this apply in the work force?
Think of successful leaders. Most succeed much better when demonstrating skills
stemming from an optimistic view point, which nurtures their drive to attain their objectives. They positively influence their followers and see much further than the bigger picture. They are the ones willing to take well calculated risks and are more open to change because of their optimistic outlook (Martinuzzi, 2006). Speaking of followers, an inspiring leader that I know well once said to me:
“The definition of good leadership is followership” -R. D.
That right there said it all. A great leader doesn't force others to come his or her way, they naturally want follow. They support the leader's views because he or she has earned their respect and thus, their trust. If you aren’t inspiring and willing to do the work WITH your followers, why should they be motivated? All that can be found in the way the leader, we, embrace change. The way we cope and the way we perceive. If all of these are tainted with pessimism…the story will end quickly.
Personally, I know I would not have achieved a quarter of my objectives if it wasn't for my positive outlook on life. Don't get me wrong, I am indeed human and do get down and still have some classic cases of insecurity like everyone else. Yet, generally speaking, I do believe in the good of a person by default, until proven wrong. I trust in life, sincerely. Perhaps that is why I am not afraid to think with my heart. Not only do I wear it on my sleeve, I throw it at people. Yes, I end up with a few bruises here and there as well as the occasional disappointment. But that hasn't stopped me yet. Why? Probably because I always believed the individuals were worth the effort at the time. Probably also because I always learnt something from each experience. No regrets. There goes my optimism again ;). One of my friends posted this quote on his Facebook wall recently, and I couldn't agree more as I find it to be optimism as its best:
"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out while loudly proclaiming : "Wow! That was one hell of a ride!'" -Unknown
Eeyor or Tigger?
All this being said, we have to, at some point, identify which type of approach we generally tend to have. Are we optimistic while facing a challenge or rather pessimistic? Randy Pausch (yes, quoting him again because he’s that brilliant) says we either fall in the Eeyor or Tigger category, both characters are pals of the famous Winnie The Pooh loving teddy bear. Eeyor is the sad donkey, slow and more of the pessimistic kind while Tigger is energetic, jumpy and happy. I find there to be a positive correlation between being a Tigger AKA having optimism and believing in “everything happens for a reason”. I am unquestionably a Tigger to the core. Even when I make (what I think are) huge mistakes, they turn out to be funny moments I usually end up laughing at later. Moments that continuously make me learn something about myself and others one way or another. Moments that widen my comfort zone and keep me on my toes. There is always something positive that comes out of any situation, pessimists just don't see it (Pfff! and they call optimists blind!). While I do think we may be born either Eeyors or Tiggers, I also believe that with time, each of these behaviors can be learnt. I just hope more of us will chose to learn from Tigger.
And in the end, the optimist CAN adjust the sails as well, but on our boat? We do it with a wink and a smile and a half full glass of water (fromage!).
31/7/2013 01:12:00 pm
I find sometimes that it is scary to be optimist...what if, like you said, you become blind...oblivious of your mistakes and tend to put blame on external factors. Of course, you should live and learn, but in some situations you don't have a second chance! Pessimism , on a low low scale, can be good....it helps to face yourself. This being said, I do prefer optimism and being with Tiger People as they will always encourage you!
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My name is Ivana. I love photography and meeting people. I hold a Master's in counselling psychology and work as a career consultant. Music is my fuel and an important source of energy in my life. I drive my vespa around the city and I love what I do! :) About this blog: me on my artistic soap box!
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