How to Be a Realistic Optimist in Three Steps
Happy people are productive people.
We get s#!t done.
There…I’ve said it.
As an eternal optimist, I have had my fair share of people tell me over the years that I am not being “realistic” or that I am not taking seriously what could “go wrong;” that I am being a “Pollyanna.”
You know what? They are right, and that is exactly why I am successful.
I am continually amazed at the amount of negative thinking, negative self-talk, and problem making (even when none exists) that our society has gotten comfortable with. What is even more mind-boggling is that those people who are quick to tell others they are being unrealistic (simply because they are choosing to see the possibilities and not just the challenges of a situation) are the biggest roadblocks in their own lives…and they have no clue that they are the reason they are usually miserable and complaining (they prefer to blame that on others).
In any conversation, the question that will instantly determine whether you are mired in pessimism or engaged in optimism is, “So, what are you going to do about it?” A pessimist will rarely take action, opting to just continue complaining instead. An optimistic approach will often lead to a discussion of what action steps can be started.
“People who only look at what could go wrong are problem makers. People who look at what might go right are problem solvers. Which one you decide to be is always your choice.” (Robin Sacks)
Are you getting in your own way by being a problem maker instead of a problem solver?
Here are three sure-fire ways to get out of your own way and get s#!t done like a realistic optimist!
#1 Don’t get too caught up in the outcome.
Focusing only on the outcome puts you in a tunnel from which it is hard to escape. By focusing on the outcome, you miss so many opportunities along the way that often would make it easier to arrive at your goal, as well as get you there faster.
If you are trying to fit everything into what your outcome should look like, you are spending precious time and energy trying to adjust things to your narrative.
When, instead, you allow the process to help give you answers as to what the outcome is going to look like, that same time and energy can be used for DOING instead of trying to make things into something they might not be.
“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” (Winston Churchill)
#2 Play out ALL of the scenarios (not just the negative ones!).
If you pay attention to how you think about how something will turn out, I can almost guarantee that you are only playing out the negative outcomes. I have a friend who is an absolute master at doing this. She wants to make sure she thinks about the worse case scenario and anything that could possibly go wrong so that she is “prepared” regardless of what happens.
OMG! I can not tell you how many simple and effective solutions to “problems” she has glossed right over throughout her life because, even through the answer was sitting right in front of her eyes, she was only looking for the bad stuff to happen…and missed the easy solution.
Remember, what you focus on is what you tend to get. That is a CHOICE.
How do you do that?
Simple…always make sure you ask yourself both sides of any question, not just the negative side.
For example, when you think, “What if it doesn’t work?” make sure you immediately think, “What if it does?” If you say, “What if they tell me ‘no’?” it needs to be followed with, “What if they say ‘ok’?”
“In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story.” (Walter Cronkite)
Your default tendency is most likely to err on the side what you don’t want to happen.
When you simply “flip the switch” and make it a habit of seeing both (realistic) sides to the equation, you stress less and give yourself a chance for a positive outcome.
Remember, if you only have half of the story, you don’t have any of the story! Making decisions based on half the story will never serve you.
#3 Stop participating in drama (both yours and that of others).
Realistic optimists do not do drama. We have better things to do with our lives.
When you regularly hold “story time” in your head, you create all kinds of fake situations and conversations. Those are the very thoughts that ensure that you do not find the success you are seeking.
What you focus on is what you get…ask any optimist OR pessimist…they will be able to confirm this. ;)
You also need to stop attending other peoples’ performances.
Most of the time, the people who tell you that you are being “unrealistic” in your optimism are people who have lied to themselves and told themselves SO many stories over the years that they honestly believe those stories are more “real” than your reality. Those very same people are the ones who have NOT accomplished many of their dreams or desires, are always complaining about things and people, and love to hear themselves talk/complain (which they do A LOT!).
A good mantra to have with these people is “consider the source.” Simply put, if the person telling me something won’t work has never done or is not currently doing what we are talking about, their opinion about it doesn’t mean anything.
“Don’t blame a clown for acting like a clown, ask yourself why you keep going to the circus.”
At the most simple level, the optimist tends to see the positive side of things; the pessimist tends to see everything in as negative a way as possible. The irony is that pessimists believe optimists are sometimes being unrealistic, just as optimists believe pessimists are doing the very same thing!
You can be a realistic optimist or a realistic pessimist. The difference is, one of those will hold you back while the other will move you forward.
Being “realistic” can be miserable or joyful. The choice is yours…only the pessimist blames their choice on everyone else.