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Optimism versus Pessimism

Introduction

‘Whatever you can do with unhappiness you can do better when you’re happy,’ Neil (2006)

Broadly speaking people can be categorised as being generally optimistic or pessimistic.

Optimistic people are noted for their ability to see the good in everything, viewing the world as place full of adventure and opportunity.

Pessimistic people, on the other hand, meet life with a sense of futility, viewing the world with a certain level of cynicism and negativity.

This article will highlight the differences between these opposing mindsets. I will not only highlight the benefits of being optimistic but also some of the hidden advantages that being a pessimist can offer.

Optimists are more likely to extract positives from every experience

Optimistic individuals are more likely to extract the positives from every experience compared to their pessimistic counterparts. Even in the face of adversity the optimist is able to focus on the grains of positivity that can be taken from nearly every situation.

Often during the inevitable ebbs of life the optimist chooses to focus on what has been learned so that the same mistakes will not reoccur. At the other end of the spectrum the pessimist becomes preoccupied with the negative event strengthening their belief that life is full of disappointment.

Both mindsets have completely different ways of internalising the same experience.

Optimists achieve more

Optimists are noted to achieve more than the pessimists. This is because optimists tend to persevere in the face of difficulties, while pessimists are more likely to throw in the towel at the first sign of trouble.

Tenacity and determination are two of the biggest predictors of success, and these characteristics seem to come hand in hand with the mindset of an optimist.

In the pursuit of success everyone hits obstacles from time to time, and in order to be successful you need to have the drive and conviction to overcome these temporary road blocks.

Optimists are healthier

A study reported by LiveScience.com showed that the cardio-vascular system of optimists is significantly more likely to stay healthier longer when compared with the pessimist’s system.

More specifically, the study also showed that people who described themselves as highly optimistic had a lower mortality rate from cardio-vascular disease than the pessimists.

The world renowned social psychologist Martin Seligman also supported this stance by showing that optimists and pessimists differ markedly in how long they will live.

The brain and body are undoubtedly interconnected so it comes of no surprise that a negative mind over time will impart a negative influence on the functioning of the body.

The dreamer versus the realist

Being an optimist usually comes hand in hand with being a dreamer and an idealist.

Optimists usually internalise fantastic visions of their future, imagining a life full of the things they want to achieve.

However wild and ambitious these visions are, everything is obtainable for the eternal optimist.

All great things have come from an individual’s ability to conceptualise change in the world before this change has been happened. Visions and ideals are the seed that creates change, and without these in place the world would stand still.

However it is easy to become so lost in the opium of idealism that nothing actually gets done in the real world.

One of the major flaws of the optimist is that they are predisposed to lack the realistic and critical thought processes that ground their idealistic visions. Unfortunately their visions of grandeur become lost in the realm of wishful thinking.

The pessimist on the other-hand is driven by critical thinking, and can therefore aid the optimist.

By critiquing the optimist’s ideals, the optimist is forced to evaluate the problems that may arise during the process of making the dream a reality.

The constant battle between the two opposing mindsets, quickly forces a balanced equilibrium that outlines a realistic and grounded approach to making the optimists ideals a reality.

The famous Walt Disney paid testament to the importance of having an internal critic as well as an internal optimistic during the creation of some of his most spectacular work. By combining the two mindsets, Disney was able to produce balanced work that was well grounded and equally ambitious.

This point illustrates that adopting a pessimistic mindset at times, can be highly useful.

Onto Part Two

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Click here to read part two of this article.

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